• Nate Adams

Review: 'Misbehaviour' a true story that doesn't dig deep enough


Courtesy of Shout! Studios

Stacked with an exceptional cast, featuring Keira Knightly, Jessie Buckley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Greg Kinnear’s fake prosthetic nose, Philippa Lowthrope’s “Misbehaviour” is a true story about the efforts around the women’s liberation movement and their determination to bring down the 1970 Miss World competition in London. 


Throughout the film, there are plenty of moments that give “Misbehaviour” its flare and you can understand why the premise is compelling from a director’s point of view, but most of the characters remain half-baked, the underlying message at the heart of the story gets muffled - especially in the final twenty minutes - and, well, Greg Kinnear’s prosthetic nose. 


It all takes shape at a time when the patriarchy rules supreme and women's rights and inequalities are the punchline of late night comedy sketches. The Miss World pageant is easily the biggest draw on television, seeking to create an impressionable worldview for young girls that, in order to be successful, you must look pretty and be judged by men. 


Knightly plays Sally Alexander, an aspiring scholar and academic who must deal with condescending male professors and peers who don’t understand why she isn’t at home in the kitchen. She crosses path with Jo (Buckley) whose unorthodox methods of female empowerment almost land her in prison. 


Bringing their two causes together is the impending pageant that will see Bob Hope (Kinnear and his nose) schmoozing his way through hosting duties. Taking part in the festivities is Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten (Mbatha-Raw) who must also contend with the fact a black woman has never won the competition, and the protest that steams from her participation. 


Those struggles and ideologies prove the greatest strength of “Misbehavior” which, in only 90 minutes, doesn’t flesh out the entire scope of the story, jumping from one important milestone to the next without a smidge of character development. We understand Sally’s home life is a mess, in the brief moments we get to witness, but nothing about Jo ever comes to fruition, a shame when you have someone as talented as Buckely in the role who could really make something of it. 


Co-writers Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe, fail to dig deeper into the women’s liberation movement, keeping moments polished and primed without fully realizing the narrative spoils of such a story. Instead of taking a deep dive into the realm of what feminism can mean to different generations of younger women, a message the real Sally Alexander has hammered home for decades, the tacky screenplay of “Misbehavior” holds it back from becoming truly empowering. 


Grade: C- 


MISBEHAVIOUR will be available digitally starting Friday September 25th.