This glossy dramatisation of the 1970 Miss World Pageant in London, during which feminist protesters stormed the stage and covered host Bob Hope in flour, is intended to be a tale of heroism when viewed through a modern lens, but ends up playing things a little too safe.
The story unfolds from several perspectives. Kiera Knightley and Jessie Buckley are the film’s main focus as the feminist activists who plot a seige on an event that they see as a monument to oppression. We also witness the organisation of the contest led by Rhys Ifans’ outspoken pageant boss.
While his performance is solid enough, it underlines the film’s difficulties with tone. The archaic views of the establishment, and characters such as Knightley’s traditionally-minded mother, are often played for laughs, which makes the protagonists’ struggle harder to invest in. While it’s always clear they’re in the wrong, they don’t provide the opposition this story needs.
What makes Misbehaviour slightly more than a common-or-garden us-versus-them British comedy is the parallel narrative told by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Loreece Harrison as two women of colour competing in the competition, hoping to use it as a platform for equality and visibility for their nations (Grenada and South Africa respectively).
It’s a conflict that raises a complex debate, as Mbatha-Raw points out to the all-white activists that her opportunities to be heard are far more limited. It’s a welcome hint of edge in a film that too often goes for crowd pleasing gags over genuine insight.
Sadly, it is only a hint. Nobody goes too far with their passions, even in moments where it would seem appropriate.
Misbehaviour has noble intentions and pleasant comedy, but the anger that inspired this infamous moment in history is conspicuously absent.