Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Greg Kinnear, Rhys Ifans, Jessie Buckley, Lesley Manville, Keeley Hawes, Loreece Harrison, Clara Rosager, Suki Waterhouse, Phyllis Logan, Lily Newmark, Ruby Bentall, Maya Kelly, John Hefferman
Written by: Rebecca Frayn, Gaby Chiappe
Directed by: Philippa Lowthorpe
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 106
Date: 09/25/2020

Misbehaviour (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Beauty Parley

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Premiering digital/VOD, Philippa Lowthorpe's Misbehaviour (English spelling, please) tells a perky, polished "inspired by true events" story, tackling it from four different angles.

Keira Knightley is perhaps the center, playing Sally Alexander, who lands an Emeritus Professor of Modern History position, hoping to change the system from within, but discovering that men don't want to hear her opinions even during a casual scholarly chit-chat.

She attends a meeting of a new women's liberation group, led by Jo (Jessie Buckley), with her sly, sideways grin. It is decided that they will infiltrate the 1970 Miss World competition and protest its unrealistic and unfair portrayal of women.

Meanwhile, the competition has just begun allowing non-white women to compete, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as Jennifer Hosten (Miss Grenada), and Loreece Harrison as Pearl Jansen (Miss Africa South, who, due to politics, competes alongside "Miss South Africa"), have different things to say. If they can provide hope to other young women of color, then the competition is a good thing.

Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) is in charge of the competition, blithely cataloguing the women by their measurements and other physical attributes, arranging and lining them up like cattle.

Then we have the competition's host, none other than Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear, not quite pulling the role off as well as he did Bob Crane in Paul Schrader's Auto Focus). Years earlier, Hope had hosted the competition and gone home with one of the beauties. He sees the whole thing as an opportunity for his own personal pleasure, though his wife (Lesley Manville) says differently.

These four viewpoints clash in an interesting, lightly humorous way, while largely staying on the surface. Like many other comedies of this type, Misbehaviour presents its struggling, working class world with a bright, cheerful gloss so that we don't have to think too hard.

But it's still ambitious enough to offer more than one correct side to this still-pressing issue, and, thankfully leaving more wiggle room than the standard bathing suit allows.

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