Why Misbehaviour is the funny, feminist film you need to see this weekend
Picture the scene: it’s 1970, Miss World is gearing up for its 20th competition, and the first black winner is about to be crowned in London. In the background, the newly formed women’s liberation movement is getting ready to storm the stage in protest. It would go down in history as a disastrous day for beauty pageants — and a momentous one for female representation.
This is Misbehaviour, a funny and thoughtful British comedy that brings a remarkable real-life story to life with what reads like a roll call of British talent. Keira Knightley’s Sally Alexander is our window into the curious world of competitive prettifying; a campaigner, student and mother to a young daughter who, after a chance meeting with Jessie Buckley’s Jo and her group of unruly protesters, joins the group of women who would go on to flour-bomb the stage.
In the hairsprayed Miss World corner, we follow Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Jennifer Hosten — the quiet and steely Miss Grenada who has no illusions of winning, but every understanding of what it would mean to other women of colour if she did. And when she finally comes face-to-face with Alexander, it’s a tense and tender moment that highlights just how complex the very concept of a Miss World competition actually was.
Of course, this is a British comedy, and the supporting cast are on point; from Rhys Ifans’ farcical pageant chief to Lesley Manville as the deliciously resentful wife of that year’s host, Bob Hope. But for every laugh, there’s a moment that grabs your heart and puts it right into your throat. Ultimately, Mishbehaviour is a snapshot of the pioneering protesters who took the women’s liberation movement into the spotlight — and a reminder that we have come a long, long way since then.
Misbehaviour is released in cinemas on 13 March. Watch the trailer below: