Based on real events, Misbehaviour tells the the story of how a group of young women plotted to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition, and in the process launched the Women’s Liberation Movement. Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) left college early to get married and have a baby. She’s now divorced and living with her mother, child, and boyfriend Gareth (John Heffernan), and returning to school as a “mature student”, studying History at University College London. Sally also spends her time organizing leaflet drives for women’s rights groups. Things are most certainly not equal for women, and she also notices this in the way her professor doesn’t take her dissertation topic seriously, or the way the male students talk over her in class. However, she hopes that with her newfound “seat at the table”, she can be a force of change from within. At one of her women’s group meetings, Sally meets three young ladies who are interested in far more radical ways to make a change for equal rights. They have their own women’s group, the Women’s Liberation Army, who are demanding an end to discrimination, and are for things like equal pay for equal work, and access to free child care, abortions and contraception. The leader of the group is Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), who likes to get her message across by tagging billboards and organizing protests. Jo doesn’t believe in the media, but if they want to get their point across, they are going to need to get their message on TV, and that’s where Sally comes in.
Meanwhile, Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) and his wife Julia (Keeley Hawes) are preparing for their latest annual Miss World competition, and have asked Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) to return as a special guest at the ceremony. Bob’s wife Dolores (Lesley Manville) is concerned because the last time her husband hosted the ceremony 10 years ago, he took the winner back home with him to California. There is also some political controversy surrounding the event—no woman of color has ever won this contest, and this year looks to be the same, with the blonde-haired Miss Sweden, Maj Johansson (Clara Rosager), being the favorite to win. Members of the press concerned that the ceremony is not diverse enough, and that the organizers may be supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa. So Eric Morley adds both black and white contestants from South Africa—Miss Africa South Pearl Jansen (Loreece Harrison) and Miss South Africa Jillian Jessup (Emma Corrin)—as well as Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who’s the first representative from her country to be invited to participate. While these women see this competition as an amazing chance to improve their lives and open doors to other opportunities, the Women’s Liberation Army sees the event as a misogynist cattle call that degrades women by making them compete with one another based on their measurements and looks. The Women’s Liberation Army has decided to do something about it, plotting to infiltrate the ceremony and make a scene.
Misbehaviour follows three different storylines and points of view while telling this real-life story—the woman planning the demonstration, the women in the beauty contest, and Bob Hope, his wife and the contest organizers. The Women’s Liberation Army reveals how women were treated like second class citizens even more-so 50 years ago. Even Sally, who had hoped to be able to change things from the inside, sees that a more militant approach may be needed. These women see the Miss Universe competition as the perfect example of everything that is wrong with the state of women’s rights. However, there are those who don’t necessarily agree. Sally’s mother Evelyn (Phyllis Logan) doesn’t approve of her daughter’s participation in the planned demonstration—she sees nothing wrong with more traditional gender roles and values, and suggests that Sally is emasculating her boyfriend Gareth by constantly asking him to watch her child, or make her dinner. And for the women in the contest, many of them are proud to be representing their countries, and see the contest as a stepping stone to better their lives and achieve their personal goals. Even the women of color, who don’t believe they even have a chance of winning, are so happy, proud and honored to have been chosen to compete. Despite being put through some pretty degrading situations—such as getting measured and checked for padding, wearing skimpy swimsuits, and showing off their backsides as part of the judging process—they still remain poised and proud. At one point Miss Grenada even tells Sally, the women in this contest hope to one day just to obtain the choices that Sally currently has, let alone what she is fighting for.
The film explores the ideas of racism and sexism in a way that’s both quite dramatic, but also with a lot of humor. There is this interesting juxtaposition between the world of this misogynist institution that millions of people tune in to celebrate and how that contest changes the lives of many women, and the birth of the Woman’s Liberation Movement. Looking back at the general treatment of women 50 years ago is also quite shocking—the way the Miss Universe contestants are objectified and treated by the contest judges, hosts and announcers is certainly the product of a very different era. Another very interesting part of the film is the drama and relationship between Bob Hope and his wife. For many years Dolores has turned a blind eye to her husband’s wandering eye and obvious affair(s). She knows what happened the last time Bob judged this contest, and is afraid history is going to repeat itself. Meanwhile, Bob agreed to host the ceremony, but is unaware of the protest and spectacle that is planned for the event. His jokes and attitudes towards the contestants and demonstrators would certainly be frowned upon and questionable in today’s society. The film is a funny but also poignant look at not only how far we’ve come in regards to women’s rights, but also at how much work there still is to do 50 years later.
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent, with a pristine picture that captures the look and feel of the era beautifully. The audio track provides clear dialogue, and also provides a somewhat immersive experience, especially during the ceremony and subsequent demonstration. The disc includes about 8 minutes of promotional featurettes with the cast and filmmakers, interviews with stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Greg Kinnear, as well as the trailer and TV spots. The Blu-ray disc comes packed in a standard HD keepcase along with a cardboard slipcover. There is no digital copy included.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Misbehaviour Making Of Featurette (3:16)
This promotional featurette includes clips from the film as well as clips of the cast and filmmakers talking about the premise, characters and cast. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Philippa Lowthorpe, producer Suzanne Mackie, and stars Keira Knightly (“Sally Alexander”), Keeley Hawes (“Julia Morley”), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Jennifer Hosten”), Jessie Buckley (“Jo Robinson”), Greg Kinnear (“Bob Hope”), Loreece Harrison (“Pearl Jansen”), and Rhys Ifans (“Eric Morley”).
- “How Women’s Liberation Took On Miss World” (2:39)
In this This promotional featurette, the real Jo Robinson, Jenny Fortune, Su Finch, Jane Grant, and Sarah Wilson talk about the Women’s Liberation Movement, the experience of taking over the Miss World event, the aftermath of their actions, meeting their film counterparts, and more. Also includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interview clips with director Philippa Lowthorpe.
- “The Women Who Changed Miss World” (2:29)
In this promotional featurette, the real Jennifer Hosten and Pearl Jansen, talk about how the Miss World competition changed their lives, their portrayal in the film, and the ongoing struggle for equality of women, and especially women of color. Also includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interview clips with director Philippa Lowthorpe.
- Interview with Gugu Mbatha-Raw (6:46)
Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Jennifer Hosten”) talks about her hopes for the film’s audience, what it was like meeting the real Jennifer Hosten, the film’s contemporary relevance, the film’s story, and more.
- Interview with Greg Kinnear (5:13)
Actor Greg Kinnear (“Bob Hope”) talks about what attracted him to the project, Bob Hope’s worldwide fame, how Bob Hope would have been affected by these protests, the tone of the film, nd more.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:59)
- TV Spots (:45)
10- and 30-second TV spots play back-to-back.
Misbehaviour is a fun but dramatic look back at how a demonstration during the 1970 Miss World competition kicked off the Women’s Liberation Movement, providing viewers with a look at the roles and mindsets of women at the time from three different points of view. The film features an excellent cast, and beautifully recaptures the look and feel of the era. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and includes a small but entertaining selection of bonus material. This is worth checking out for a lighter, fun, but also poignant watch during this election season.