Misbehaviour offers comic romp with serious message

Misbehaviour
Misbehaviour

Misbehaviour (12a), (106 mins), Cineworld Cinemas

If you’ve got vague, dim and distant memories of having idly, unthinkingly gawped at Miss World competitions hundreds of years ago, this is precisely the film to make you shiver in shame at the thought of it.

Director Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour is a brilliant expose of just how shockingly awful the whole thing was as both a concept and a reality; her film is also a spiky, fun retelling of precisely what a group of feisty young women did about it all.

And in the presence of the great Bob Hope too…

In 1970, the Miss World competition took place in London, with US comedy legend Bob Hope returning to the franchise to deliver a comic intermission – one of the more momentous gigs he ever played.

Barely had he started, in front of more than 100 million viewers worldwide, than bags of flour started raining down on the stage as a group of protesters made their move.

But the film is more nuanced than that. The delight is in the sharp contrasts between the women seizing the day. Keira Knightley’s Sally Alexander is a bookish single-mum intent on grabbing herself a place at the table, desperate to get to university, not so desperate to break the law.

Jessie Buckley’s Jo Robinson is one of those characters that Buckley plays so well (Wild Rose et al), the total rebel determined that the first thing she needs to do is smash that table up.

Somehow the two converge on that fateful 1970 night.

And even amongst the Miss World contestants, this is a film which refuses to skate over the surface. The protesters see everything as a male-female struggle; a couple at least of the contestants see the Miss World competition as a chance to fight a different (but somehow similar) war – a chance to offer hope in the face of apartheid.

Greg Kinnear is excellent as a rather slimy Bob Hope; Rhys Ifans is equally impressive as an even slimier Eric Morley, the man behind the whole Miss World idea. Just awful to think we’re talking about something within living memory.

The result manages to be both thought-provoking and an enjoyable romp. And goodness, those clothes. We really are looking at ancient history...

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