MISBEHAVIOUR (2020) – Story of Protests at 1970 Miss World Competition in London Has A lot to Say About Women’s Rights and Racism



In 1970, a group of women protested the Miss World Beauty Pageant in London, going so far as throwing flour bombs at host Bob Hope on stage. The event is credited as being one of the jump-starters of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

This is the story told in the new movie MISBEHAVIOUR (2020), an enjoyable and informative film by director Philippa Lowthorpe, and starring Keira Knightley.

MISBEHAVIOR actually tells two stories, one about the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the other about racism, as seen through the eyes of two black contestants, one of whom is from South Africa, living under Apartheid, a system which the powers that be in 1970 refused to acknowledge.

Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) is struggling to get ahead in life for the sole reason that she is a woman. It’s 1970, and she has a difficult time enrolling in college classes, is judged because she is unmarried and has a daughter, and even when she gets accepted into a college program her opinions are not heeded the same way as her male classmates.

Sally meets Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) who’s part of a women’s group which Sally views as rather extreme, but when she is continually frustrated by her college experiences, she decides to seek out Jo and join their group. Together, they set their sights on the 1970 Miss World Beauty Pageant, an event they see as the epitome of objectifying women.

Miss World coordinator Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) struggles to keep his pageant above the fray as he continually touts the notion that Miss World is first- rate family entertainment, even as his wife Julia (Keeley Hawes) peppers him with tidbits that imply he’s behind the times. In fact, she gets one of the best lines in the film when she says she fears her husband will be forever stuck in the 1950s.

There are a  lot of memorable lines in the movie. It’s a smart screenplay by Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe. Chiappe also wrote the screenplay to THEIR FINEST (2016), an underrated comedy-drama about a World War II propaganda movie about Dunkirk. In  MISBEHAVIOUR, some of the biting lines include comparing the beauty pageant to a cattle market, and in a conversation between Sally and her mother, her mom complains that there are lots of girls who enjoy Miss World, to which Sally replies that she’s not a girl, she’s a woman.

Meanwhile, while both Jennifer Hosten, Miss Grenada (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Pearl Jansen, Miss Africa South (Loreece Harrison), are happy to be the first black contestants, they are also disheartened by the fact that no one seriously believes they can win.

And then there’s Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) who sees nothing wrong with his sexist jokes which he views as harmless fun, but when he’s pelted with flour bombs on stage, he’s left wondering, what is happening in the world, and what does it mean for his place in it?

MISBEHAVIOUR is an intelligent, well-written, well-directed movie that tells an important story, even more so in the here and now, where it seems that women’s rights are once again in jeopardy.

Director Philippa Lowthorpe has made an effective period piece, and she gets the look and feel of 1970 right. She also effortlessly goes back and forth between the women’s right story and the racial angle. Both points are successfully made in the film.

It’s an interesting cast. Keira Knightley is fine in the lead role as Sally Alexander and gets the most screen time. While she’s enjoyable throughout, it’s the supporting cast in this one that really makes its mark.

Jessie Buckley gives a quirky performance as Jo Robinson, and it’s easy to see why Sally would join forces with her. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Loreece Harrison both give sensitive performances as Jennifer Hosten and Pearl Jansen.

Rhys Ifans gives the liveliest performance in the film as the eccentric and determined Eric Morley whose mantra is the show will go on at all costs. Equally good is Keeley Hawes as his observant wife Julia.

Phyllis Logan is excellent as Sally’s mother Evelyn, who is constantly sparring with her daughter, trying to reign her in and get her to be a more traditional woman. And when Sally strikes back and laments that her mother wasn’t allowed to live her life, as she had to sacrifice it all to be there for her family, you can feel the pain emanating from Evelyn’s heart. The two share some of the best moments in the movie.

And in a smaller role, Lesley Manville is exceptional as Bob Hope’s long suffering yet patient wife Dolores. She also gets a great line near the end of the movie when Bob Hope is wondering what this all means for his career, and she wisely tells him that the world is changing, but his career will go on because people love him.

Greg Kinnear does a nice job as comedic icon Bob Hope. It’s not a full-on impersonation by any means, but the look and mannerisms are there to make Kinnear’s performance as Hope thoroughly convincing.

I really enjoyed MISBEHAVIOUR. What it has to say about women’s rights and racism is still so prevalent today. It’s sad, really, that these issues remain in jeopardy in the here and now fifty years after the events told in this movie.

If you want to know about one of the major events which energized the Women’s liberation movement, the protest at the 1970 Miss World Pageant in London, then you definitely want to check out MISBEHAVIOUR.

It’s one of my favorite movies of the year.







BRIAN BANKS (2019) – Inspirational True Story of One Man’s Fight to Clear His Name


brian banks

BRIAN BANKS (2019), based on the inspirational true story of Brian Banks, a black man wrongly imprisoned for rape who fought his way back to clear his name and eventually play football in the NFL, offers no surprises.


The story plays out exactly as you expect it to, and yet, this hardly seems to matter because at the end of the day, BRIAN BANKS is a solid, well-told story that makes its point and moves its audience to tears.

Sure, it’s safe and sanitized, the type of movie that easily could have been the TV movie of the week back in the day. It’s not gritty. It’s not R-rated. Some would call this inferior filmmaking, missing an opportunity to tell a story well and make an impact. For me, it all comes down to how a film is executed. I like safe sanitized movies as well as hard gritty ones, as long they do a good job telling their stories. BRIAN BANKS tells its story well.

Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) was an up and coming football star, breaking school records and attracting attention of college football scouts. But when he was 16 years old, he was accused of rape, a crime he said he did not commit. Encouraged by his attorney to plead “no contest” which would be the same as “guilty” but would most likely mean no jail time, the youth agreed, only to watch in horror as the judge slapped a six-year jail sentence on him, as well as requiring him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Most of BRIAN BANKS takes place after Brian has been released from prison, although his prison experience is shown via flashback. As a young man in his twenties, an ex-con and registered sex-offender, Brian struggles to find work, as no one will hire him, and he lives with his supportive mother Leomia (Sherri Shepherd). He also has to contend with an overbearing parole officer (Dorian Missick) who constantly reminds Brian when he’s too close to a school or playground.

Brian finds it next to impossible to move on with his life, but he knows he’s innocent, and so he contacts attorney Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) who specializes in fighting for people who have been falsely convicted of crimes. Justin empathizes with Brian, but tells him that unless he can come up with some new and extraordinary evidence, his case will not be overturned, and so Brian sets out to do just that.

As I said, BRIAN BANKS offers no surprises. You know where this one is going to go, but since it’s going to a satisfactory place, the predictability of it all is not a problem.

At first, the screenplay by Doug Atchison raised an eyebrow. As Brian tells his story to Justin Brooks, he explains that he and the female student went to the section of the school known as a place where students make out, with the express intent of making out with this girl, but when a teacher walks by, it spooks Brian and not wanting to do anything that jeopardizes his future career, he changes his mind and walks away, leaving the spurned girl to make up the charge of rape.

Well, that’s believable.


You walked away? On your own? And the girl made the whole think up?

I don’t think so!

But the film covers its tracks by having Brian’s current girlfriend Karina (Melanie Liburd) be a sexual assault victim herself. When Brian first tells her his story, she apologizes and then leaves him alone at a restaurant table. But as she gets to know him, she finds herself believing in him, and eventually falls for him.

BRIAN BANKS really isn’t about the he said/she said of sexual assault. The film never really calls into question Brian’s innocence. He’s innocent. The system failed him. That’s the message of the film.  What BRIAN  BANKS really is about is resilience.

In prison. an angry and bitter Brian meets a wise old man, played by an uncredited Morgan Freeman, who becomes Brian’s mentor. He teaches Brian to let his anger go, and presents him with a creed that states that life is not about what happens to you, but how you respond to life’s adversities.

And that’s really what BRIAN BANKS is about and why the film ultimately succeeds. Brian Banks is a man who simply refuses to give up, who believes that the one thing he can control is how hard he fights for his freedom, and it’s a fight he refuses to give up on. As depicted in the movie, Brian really is an inspirational character.

Doug Atchison’s screenplay deals with sexual assault and the failings of our legal system but largely avoids race issues. The fact that Brian is black is hardly mentioned in the film. More than a story about race, it’s a story about perseverance and the pursuit of truth.

Director Tom Shadyac takes what could have been a hard-hitting gritty story and sanitizes it to the point where it could have been made by Disney. But since Banks’ relentless pursuit of the truth is so admirable, it hardly seems to matter. Shadyac is a director known for his comedies, films like BRUCE ALMIGHTY (2003), THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1996) and ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994). There’s nothing comedic about BRIAN BANKS, and Shadyak seems quite comfortable telling this story.

Aldis Hodge is solid and sympathetic in the lead as Brian Banks. He captures Banks’ spirit and makes his journey a believable one. Hodge has been in a bunch of things over the years, from HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) and JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (2016) to the TV shows BLACK MIRROR (2017) and THE WALKING DEAD (2014) to name just a few.

Likewise, Greg Kinnear is very good as attorney Justin Brooks, who eventually is won over by Banks and decides to take his case. Although Kinnear has been working steadily, it’s been a while since I’ve seen him on the big screen. I believe for me it’s been since LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006).

Both Sherri Shepherd as Brian’s mom and Melanie Liburd as his girlfriend also turn in strong performances, as does Xosha Roquemore as Kennisha Rice, the woman who as it turns out falsely accused Brian of rape.

Likewise, Tiffany Dupont makes her mark as Alissa Bjerkhoel, who works for Justin Brooks and who was instrumental in encouraging Brooks to take Brian’s case.

And Dorian Missick is very good as the hard-nosed parole officer Mick Randolph. Missick has also been in a ton of things, from playing “Cockroach” on LUKE CAGE (2018) to appearances on LUCIFER (2016) and BETTER CALL SAUL (2015).

BRIAN BANKS is the type of film that at first seems difficult to recommend. It’s pretty straightforward, and the direction its story takes is pretty much a no-brainer.

But what it does do well is create a sympathetic and inspirational character, albeit based on a real life person, in Brian Banks, so much so that you can easily buy into his plight, feel his pain, and celebrate his victory.