Greg Kinnear

Misbehaviour

15/03/20

Misbehaviour chronicles the true-life weirdness of the 1970 Miss World pageant, notable both for being disrupted by the Women’s Liberation Front and for celebrating its first ever black winner. This tension between different types of progressiveness keeps the film interesting as it explores the nuances inherent in trying to effect change.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Jennifer Hosten, ‘Miss Grenada,’ who made history by placing first in the contest. For her, Miss World is all about representation and opportunity: there are little black girls, she tells white activist Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley), who will see her on TV and know that they can be successful too. And she’s hoping that the exposure will give her a chance to achieve her dream of becoming a broadcaster. She’s composed and dignified, utilising the competition for her own ends. It’s difficult to argue with her point of view.

But that’s where this film succeeds: it doesn’t try to argue with her. It allows for the fact that competing narratives can be simultaneously true. Because Alexander and the rest of the Women’s Libbers aren’t wrong either: it is appalling to see women weighed, measured, paraded and graded. It is appalling that this is what women have to do in order to succeed.

But even within the activists, there is space for difference. Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley)’s direct action mantra is a world away from Alexander’s ‘get a seat at the table and fight from within’ approach. As writers Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe make clear, there is no one path to righteousness. But one thing is certain, the Miss World pageant is an outmoded model, and casually misogynistic men like organiser Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) and Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear, on fine form) are going to have to face the fact that their time is up.

Misbehaviour is a gentle film, despite its themes of outrage and activism. There’s no post #MeToo hint of inappropriate sexual attentions being foisted on the contestants; instead, director Philippa Lowthorpe concentrates on the insidiously benign sexism that pervaded the era, and on the bravery of the women who called it out, on whose shoulders today’s young feminists stand.

Thank you.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield

Brigsby Bear

12/12/17

Once in a while, a movie comes along that is fresh and original enough to make it stand out from the herd. Brigsby Bear is one such movie – a charming allegory about the importance of childhood and the awful wrench we inevitably feel when we must finally leave it behind. It’s also funny and quirky and its delicious sense of invention keeps me hooked to the final frame.

James (Kyle Mooney, who also co-wrote the screenplay) is a twenty six year old, living in an underground bunker with his parents, Ted (Mark Hamil) and April (Jane Adams). Outside, he’s been told, there’s a nuclear wasteland where he dare not venture without wearing a respirator, so he passes his time watching episodes of a shonky children’s serial, recorded on VHS tapes, featuring a character called Brigsby Bear. The episodes arrive at regular intervals and the walls of James’ room are lined with hundreds of copies. But one day, police cars arrive at the bunker, sirens wailing. James is taken away and Ted and April are arrested. It’s down to Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear) to break the alarming truth to James. Ted and April are not his real parents. He was abducted many years ago and the whole bunker/nuclear holocaust thing is an elaborate construct to keep him safely out of the public eye. Whats more, his real parents, Greg (Matt Walsh) and Louise (Michaela Watkins) are just dying to be reunited with him. Oh, yes, and one other thing – he also has a younger sister, Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins).

James does his level best to integrate with his new family, but something very important is missing from his life. Of course, he’s keen to see the latest episode of Brigsby, but it turns out, this too is just another part of Ted and April’s scheme to keep their abducted ‘son’ occupied. Ted has been filming the series himself, episode-by-episode, inventing a whole universe of characters to keep it going. The problem is, James cannot abandon something that means to much to him, even though psychologist, Emily (Claire Danes) urges him to move on with his life and put away childish things. But James is determined that the series must be completed at all costs and in the absence of anyone else to undertake the job, he decides he will do it himself…

It may sound a little outlandish when set out so matter-of-factly, but it’s done with absolute conviction. James’ awkward interactions with Aubrey’s friends are astutely realised, funny but also endearing – ‘Would you like a beer?’ ‘Yes, I’ll have one of that.’ Also, the way James charms other characters through his naive interplay with them is another lovely element. (The bit where Detective Vogel admits he used to do a bit of acting is a particular delight.) I enjoy the hokey (not so) special effects and the fact that James’ abductors are not portrayed as weird and evil characters, but as people who are mostly motivated by love. Uniquely, here is a film that has no real villain – unless you count Sun Snatcher, the chief baddie from the Brigsby Bear adventures.

This film may not be to everyone’s taste, but in my honest opinion, it’s one of the most original slices of cinema I’ve seen in quite a while and well worth seeking out.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney