MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
I’m not quite sure how the Brits pull it off, but no one does the comedy-drama-history-nostalgia hybrid movie like they do. Naturally, the class divide in Great Britain gives the filmmakers much to work with when it comes to mixing up the privileged with the working class (although the United States is catching up to them), and that’s a good start.
But I think that there’s more to it than that. There is often a raw honesty in these movies about the pain as well as the simple pleasures of life that create stories that are heartfelt and moving without becoming maudlin.
Misbehaviour gets off to an interesting start by casing Keira Knightley against type as Sally Alexander, a single mother and aspiring applicant to university, majoring in women’s studies. The interview clearly reveals the hurdles that she faces to be taken seriously. It’s 1970 and London is preparing to host the Miss World beauty pageant. They are recruiting women from other countries who will perpetuate feminine objectification – swimsuit competitions with just enough topical conversations to suggest that beauty might be more than skin deep. Why, they are even going to include two contestants from South Africa (one white and one Black representing “South Africa” and “Africa South”) to show their stance against apartheid!
Sally’s professional interest in a local feminist group introduces her to Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) and her scrappy group of organized provocateurs, intentional about disrupting the proceedings. It takes a while for Sally to convince the women about her sincerity in their project, but soon they are painting hand-held signs together, with a renewed sense of creativity.
Meanwhile, the organizers of Miss World are doubling down on making this year’s pageant a show stopper. They even have Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) as a celebrity emcee. Hope is presented as a vain entertainer who loves to show off his file cabinets filled with every joke ever written for him. He is still apologizing to his long-suffering wife Dolores (Lesley Manville) about a past affair with Miss World of 1961 while actively flirting with a new teenager he hires as an assistant.
Eventually the protesters and the participants are going to mix things up, and there will be some positive takeaways after the dusting powder settles. It’s as predictable as London fog, but very well done. Misbehaviour is a time capsule of life 50 years ago and a nice touchstone that reminds us about how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go for equal rights and dignity for all persons regardless of race, class, or gender identity. The movie bears witness to how uncomfortable change can be; the easiest pathway of life is always to just hunker down and keep everything status quo. As a wise person once said: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
What a troublemaker.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: A light-hearted look back at the birth of the popular feminist movement.
Two pitchforks: Casual swearing; beauty pageant sexism.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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