The Plot in a Nutshell
Misbehaviour tells the true story of the Women’s Liberation Movement’s protest against the Miss World pagent in 1970. Sally Alexander (Keira Knightly) is a history student and mum who is very concerned about the world her daughter is being born into. She is part of a women’s movement and attends peaceful meetings and leafleting events. Enter Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), a radical whose feminism takes a more rebellious stance. Jo invites Sally to a meeting and the pair (along with other members of the group) begin to plan a protest against the 1970 Miss World pageant.
Running parallel to the story of Sally and Jo is that of the ladies in the pageant. The competitors are not only concerned about their place in the competition but also their place in the world. Another of the central figures is Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) aka Miss Grenada. Jennifer is the first contestant from Grenada and wants to show the world that she is a real competitor.
The two worlds collide when the Women’s Liberation Front infiltrate the finale of the pageant and the ceremony is interrupted.
Although Misbehaviour doesn’t have the style or whit of other true life stories, (say, Battle of the Sexes) it does tackle some very important issues while telling the story of brave and wonderful women.
Firstly, Misbehaviour deals with issues with women in academia. Sally is admitted to UCL, but brought down by her professor and other (male) students. As she puts it: ‘it turns out my seat at the table is a highchair.’ She wants to write about women, but is asked to broaden her field. This is not a solved issue. Women are underrepresented in academia, especially in STEM subjects. I liked that Misbehaviour touched on this, it made me angry.
Misbehaviour also deals with issues surrounding race. In the competition there are two contestants from South Africa (see left), one black and one white. At the time South Africa was under the Apartheid regime.
It also showcases a contestant from Grenada, a country that has never competed before.
This issue gave me different feelings. I so wanted both women to do well in the competition, to prove that Black women can also compete and stand up next to their White counterparts; but I also fundamentally disagree with the Pageant, so it was confusing (in a good way). Personally, the issues surrounding race were the most interesting to me and I’m glad that Misbehaviour gave it a lot of consideration.
The part that really got my blood boiling was when the girls were asked to turn around (while in swimwear) and the judges/audience were invited to look at their bums. You could see the look on the faces of the women and their expressions said so much. I love it when a film makes me really feel something.
But it isn’t all one sided. Sally’s mother points out that without her, Sally wouldn’t be where she is, which is true. Sally also had her daughter to consider – every activist has doubts.
Overall, I liked the film, I really think it’s worth a watch. It’s a film with a message that tells a real (and important) story, but don’t expect to be blown away by the cinematography. (However, I did love the costumes.)