Book My Show’s Misbehaviour is a real story about a women’s liberation group protesting against the concept behind beauty pageants that indirectly tells women that their worth comes from unrealistic standards of beauty.
Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, Misbehaviour shines a light on the oldest running beauty pageant created by Eric Morley in the UK in 1951 that pits women against each other and judges them based on how flawless their skin is, the shape of their bodies, and pretty much nothing else. Over and above this, it talks about geopolitical agendas in the ’70s in the most subtle manner.
Cast – Keira Knightley plays the role of Sally Alexander who plans the women’s liberation protest at Miss World 1970 by being a part of the audience and throwing dough at British-American comedian, Bob Hope which gets them arrested. Gugu Mbatha-Raw does a fab job at portraying everything that Miss Grenada aka Jennifer Hosten stands for. Loreece Harrison plays the role of timid but full of life, Pearl Janssen aka Miss Africa South who is so new to the kind of life she sees at the Miss World pageant.
Storyline – The story starts in 1970’s London, where a recently divorced single mother, Sally is interviewing at the University of London as a History student. This panel of interviewers is all male and they’re more concerned about how she lives her life and what her husband might say about her taking up this course. The anger that the protagonists feel in this movie is all very subtly explained via scenes like this. On realizing that she isn’t going to be able to create any real change by getting a seat at the table, she joins a women’s liberation group and they soon decide to protest against the Miss World pageant and everything it stands for. Meanwhile, we see Eric Morley and his wife, struggling to put this competition together in the middle of geopolitical controversies like anti-apartheid activists showing up at their office. In a desperate attempt to be politically correct, the Morley’s ‘allow’ South Africa to compete by bringing in one white and one black contestant, and set up an arrangement with Grenada’s prime minister, Eric Gairy to put him on the judging panel. Misbehaviour tells parallel stories of women who see this competition as a means of getting better opportunities.
Check out the trailer here!
What I liked – Women of varied age groups and races have different perspectives about this pageant and that’s portrayed rather well in Misbehaviour. While participating and winning in Miss World 1970 meant so much to Jennifer Hosten aka Miss Greneda, Sally Alexander saw it as a terrible platform that reduces the worth of women. This movie highlights that not everyone is given the same opportunities and sometimes we’re so privileged that we are unable to see that! While the Miss World pageant is still an ongoing competition and has been one for 70 years, this movie reflected what I’m already angry about! In the post-credit scenes, Misbehaviour showed us how this event changed the lives of the women involved. It was so heartwarming! “We’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry.” This resonates with us all and it’s going to be our motto, going forward.
What I didn’t quite like – This movie felt far too subtle in times when we’re all fighting sexism. It felt like the women’s liberation group was asking for permission to change the lens with which women are viewed.
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