MISBEHAVIOUR: ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about female psychology, and a whole lot of fun.’
What is so wonderful about, MISBEHAVIOUR, is not so much the political, social or feminist angles contained within its 106 minutes, (although they are very important) but, the wide portrait shown of what it really was like to be a woman in the late 20th century.
Faithful to the events that took place during the 1970 Miss World contest final in London, MISBEHAVIOUR, was around 10 years in development, and the journey was well worth it. This is subtle character layering at its finest, which only happens when a screenplay is thoroughly researched and allowed to breathe and grow, so the story truly ‘jumps’ off the page and onto the screen. When matched with the talents of one of the UK’s finest female Directors, the celebrated Philippa Lowthorn, then a film has a shot at the sort of immortality that transcends straight entertainment or education, and becomes a believable, heady mix of what we all imagine and visualise taking place in our heads, and what we know actually happened.
Kiera Knightly’s performance as Sally Alexander is wonderful, and strikes the middle class note of the middle-class women’s rights activism. As the film opens, Sally is searching for recognition in the intellectual halls of Oxford, while working class, grass roots activist Jo Robinson, lives in a commune. She is played equally well by Jessie Buckley. Sally and Jo’s relationship becomes central to the story, when they join forces to stage the famous disruption that so spectacularly upset the 1970 Miss World contest.
MISBEHAVIOUR "funny, warm and very well put together".
Meanwhile, the contestants in Miss World also show a different side to female behaviour in a patriarchal world, that of using their femininity to succeed. How sexist, one might cry in these days of ‘Me-too’ gender equality values. However, what is pertinent, and gives a totally different slant, is that in 1970, the 1st and 2nd places at Miss World were given to black women, which at the time represented a step forwards in race equality which was sorely needed. Played sensitively, by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the role of Jennifer Hosten, Miss Grenada, shows a different side of what a beauty contest can be used for. Here is a black woman, whose country was taking part for the first time, who knew that winning, or being placed would be a way to make her career ambitions happen. The film shows that many women used their looks to get away from political, social or economic backgrounds, (and still do!) This highlights the far deeper, more complex debate, that women do, and have the right to, use their looks to get ahead, as do men for that matter, but that this should not be the only way a woman can succeed.
However, bottom line, (no pun intended as regards the truly sexist swimsuit line up!) MISBEHAVIOUR is a heartfelt, lovely film no matter your race, gender or politics. Showing many different sides of how women are, it’s funny, warm and very well put together, and highlights the fact that really, it’s all about choice, and having the freedom to choose, and be judged on merit, which is exactly what this film is about.
MISBEHAVIOUR is in UK Cinemas 13th March 2020.
Note: Jane is a Director and Screenwriter, and more information can be found out about her, and her upcoming second feature, at www.23-films.com Actively supporting the rights of all individuals to be seen without prejudice regardless of race or gender, Jane saw MISBEHAVIOUR at the Regent Cinema, in central London, which champions independent films from all over the globe, and from all cultural backgrounds. www.regentstreetcinema.com