50 years ago, the Miss World competition was one of the biggest annual television events in the world, watched by millions and adored by the majority. But something was stirring. Not everyone liked the way in which the women competing to become Miss World were judged solely on their looks, with their measurements being more important then their thoughts. The Women’s liberation movement took the competition as a chance to make themselves known, and make their voices heard, by protesting at the grand final of Miss World in London in 1970.
Starring Keira Knightly as mature student Sally Alexander, Misbehaviour tells the story of how she become involved with a hidden liberation movement and began to protest women rights. She realises how the Miss World competition has a power of influence, from seeing how the men react to it and seeing how her own young daughter sees the competitors as something to aspire too. With the help of the free spirited protester Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) and her group of women from the commune, Sally prepares to take her women’s right beliefs to the public stage.
From Miss World producer Eric Morley (played by Rhys Ifans) to big name star presenter Bob Hope (played by Greg Kinnear), Misbehaviour is certainly a film that paints the majority of it’s male characters in a negative light. Morley may believe that he is simply doing his job and he takes it very seriously. He wants the girls competing for the title of Miss World to be safe but he also knows that the main selling point of the show is the girls looking good in their swimsuits. As Bob Hope, Greg Kinnear comes across as a slimeball, ignoring the thoughts of the women’s liberation movement and delighting over looking at the girls. He has previous form for his behaviour at previous Miss World competitions but he will not allow his disapproving wife stop him.
Both Keira Knightly and Jessie Buckley impress as Sally and Jo respectively, creating likable characters whilst looking uncannily like their real life counterparts. Alexa Davis is an actress really making a name for herself over recent years, with performances in Mamma Mia: Here we go again, Silent Witness and White House Farm. Here, she plays Sue, a member of the women’s liberation movement who pledges to help with the protests. Phyliss Logan plays Sally’s mother, trying to keep her daughter’s passionate plans for protest under control whilst Lesley Manville injects some comedy as Dolores Hope, the forever sidelined wife of Bob Hope who knows deep down that she can not control her husband’s wandering ways.
Whilst the Miss World competition of 1970 may be remembered mostly for the women’s liberation protests both inside and outside the venue, it was also a big year for coloured competitors. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Jennifer Hosten, Miss Grenada with Loreece Harrison as Pearl Janson, the girl who is growing up in Apartheid and brought to England to compete as Miss Africa South, up against a white competitor also from South Africa. These are both characters that you feel for, because you can sense their troubles and wish to see them succeed
With an array of characters, both those who are easy to love and those who are easy to hate, Misbehaviour is both entertaining and educational. With the film ending with notes on what happened to the real people the story is inspired by and the casting team having done a brilliant job at casting performers who look brilliantly alike to their real life counterparts, you can see the real story throughout. The talented cast bring the story to life in a believable manner and comedy is well woven into the narrative, not distracting from the importance of the story but instead adding to it.