Inspired by a true protest that feels like it could have happened today but was actually conducted by a group of revolutionary women fifty years ago, Misbehaviour is an above-average ensemble film with a wonderful message. Chaotic (but fittingly so) in its attempt to cover the story from all angles, it’s a thoroughly charming flick nevertheless.
The movie tells the story of the 1970 Miss World beauty pageant and the group of women’s liberation protesters who hatch a plan to disrupt it. And while every one of the people who has a part in this story adds something interesting to the equation, trying to juggle the contestants, the organizers, and the protesters prevents the script from doing justice to any of the groups.
Part offbeat comedy and part prestige drama, the film manages to juggle its many important ideas while still being entertaining and crowd-pleasing. At times, the sentimentality becomes a bit overwhelming and the pacing grinds to a halt for a tear-jerking moment, but the rest of the movie has such a sense of energy that it isn’t too distracting.
There are actually some really fascinating implications that this story has, and writers Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe do a great job of exploring them. The portion of the film which deals with the racial tension in the era is especially compelling, even though it may not be as deep-cutting as it has the potential to be.
Without a doubt, the activists fighting against the objectification of women through beauty pageants have the most compelling story. And given the fact that America’s commander-in-chief was once best-known for sponsoring one of the most prominent competitions of the sort, this message feels just as important now as it did in 1970.
But the movie also does a good job of showing how some of the contestants in the pageant were making a difference in their own way. A forced scene allows the storylines to connect and shows how there is more to the situation than either side would initially have seen. And in addressing both perspectives, it becomes clear why these issues remain under debate today.
That said, the portion of the film about the pageant’s organizers isn’t as necessary. Rhys Ifans goes a bit too far as the head honcho, and Greg Kinnear tries his hardest but is miscast as television personality Bob Hope. Thankfully, actresses Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw steal the spotlight from them with their stellar turns.
Misbehaviour would have been a lot better had it cut some of the fluff, but it’s still a lot better than it sounds on paper. It’s nice to see a somewhat conventional movie finally take advantage of its stellar cast to elevate it substantially.
Misbehaviour hits VOD on September 25.
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