Film Review: Misbehaviour (2020)

Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessie Buckley lead a fabulous ensemble in the highly entertaining Misbehaviour

“The only other forum in which participants are weighed, measured and publicly examined before being assigned their value is a cattle market”

As far as films set in the world of beauty pageants go, Miss Congeniality will always take some beating but Misbehaviour makes a good stab at joining it on the podium. Director Philippa Lowthorpe and screenwriters Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe nail the Britflick vibes of this true story from the 1970 Miss World competition and how the nascent women’s lib movement managed to hijack it.

It does that with the kind of ensemble cast that makes pretty much every scene of the movie a delight. Lesley Manville! John Heffernan! Amanda Lawrence! Jo Herbert! And with Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessie Buckley in starring roles, the main thrust of the film is a winner too as it takes a light-hearted look at some very much not light-hearted issues.

Knightley and Buckley play Sally Alexander and Jo Robinson, a chalk and cheese pairing of activists for the newly-formed Women’s Liberation Front. Their target is Miss World as it is being held in London and aired on the BBC and correctly, the film takes its time to illuminate the different motivations at play, whilst revealing all sorts of behind-the-scenes shenanigans at the competition itself.

Robinson was all about direct action but the more cerebral Alexander is pushed there by the misogyny she experiences in academia. This is contrasted nicely with Robinson’s mother (the ace Phyllis Logan) giving her own, different, generational perspective. And there’s also care to show the participants as rounded people too, particularly Mbatha-Raw’s Jennifer Hosten, who as Miss Grenada became the first woman of colour to win. 

And without giving too much away, the film has one of the best end credits sequences I’ve seen in ages, lovely stuff indeed.

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