ON a muggy, maudlin Monday I am sitting in a movie theatre with my best mate from primary school. We are tense with the world and terse with each other. It’s been one helluva year. She’s just survived the challenges of coaxing her son through his final year of high school in a planet with no promises, and work, for her, is hectic. I’m treading water, trying to paddle through a whirlpool of unemployment, the media and travel industry in which I work gutted by this global pandemic. We slump in our cinema seats, defeated. If I’m honest, about the last thing we want to tackle tonight is a movie about feminism. But if I know anything about our friendship of 45 years, and like the feminist movement around which this movie is based, we will rise. We always do.
I entered the world precisely 50 years ago this year, in 1970 when feminists on the other side of the world in the UK were launching their revolution against oppression. Captured in the latest British movie Misbehaviour, this true tale takes viewers on the journey which sparked the Women’s Liberation Movement against the backdrop of the 1970 Miss World Contest in London. Like the movement itself, the movie is slow and steady with several sub plots coursing through its veins.
There’s the obvious story of feminism, and how a group of women disgruntled with being treated as less-than-equal, stormed the stage of the competition and disrupted the live broadcast to more than 100 million viewers worldwide. There’s the tale of racism, with both black and white South African contestants entering for the first time and in the height of apartheid. The racism thread continues when the firm favourite, the blonde Miss Sweden does not win the contest which is taken out by the black Miss Grenada in what observers at the time believe was the beginning of transforming white ideals on what constituted beauty.
Then there are less obvious, but still pertinent plots. Mother versus daughter on feminism; husband versus wife; and woman versus woman. Greg Kinnear is excellent as British-American comedian Bob Hope with cringe-worthy lines such as “would you like a scotch and sofa or a gin and platonic?”. Keira Knightley plays a convincing part as an initial unlikely agitator whose anger grows along with the movement. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is an excellent Miss Granada and Irish actress Jessie Buckley is your ultimate fed-up feminist reminding Knightley’s character “You get the world you deserve.”
Most of this movie is shot around beige scenes – from outfits to interiors – much like the attitudes of the time. But what this 1hr47 minute romp into the past will remind you is that there is still a long way to go in the present, and future. While Bob Hope has been dead since 2003, what surprises me most is that the Miss World contest still survives to this day. My mate and I leave the theatre, animated again and at peace with each other. There’s much to dissect and discuss and it’s a movie which will sit with you long after you leave the cinema.
“I’ll have to bring my daughter to watch this,” my mate says.
“And your son,” I say, “bring your son.”
Misbehaviour opens at cinemas on Thursday, November 26. The Global Goddess was a guest of STUDIOCANAL – Australia – www.studiocanal.com.au