(director: Philippa Lowthorpe; screenwriters: Gaby Chiappe/Rebecca Frayne/story by Frayne; cinematographer: Zac Nicholson; editor: Una Ni Dhonghaile; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Keira Knightley (Sally Alexander), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Hosten-Miss Grenada), Jessie Buckley (Jo Robinson), Lesley Manville (Dolores Hope), Julia Morley (Keeley Hawes), Rhys Ifans (Eric Morley), Greg Kinnear (Bob Hope), Phyllis Logan (Evelyn Alexander), John Sackville (Robin Day), John Heffernan (Garreth), Lily Newmark (Jane), Suki Waterhouse (Sandra Wolsfeld-Miss United States), Clara Rosager (Maj Johansson – Miss Sweden), Loreece Harrison (Pearl Jansen – Miss South Africa), Emma Corrin (Jillian Jessup – Miss South Africa), Maya Kelly (Abi), Ruby Bentall (Sarah), Clarence Smith (Prime Minister of Grenada); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Suzanne Mackie, Sarah Jane Wheale; BFI; 2020-France/UK)
“A wacky pop culture period-piece comedy from England.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A wacky pop culture period-piece comedy from England, based on an entertaining true story. Brit Philippa Lowthorpe -(“Swallows and Amazons”) directs, and it’s written by Gaby Chiappe & TV writer Rebecca Frayne from the story by Frayne. It’s set in London during the 1970 Miss World contest, the scene of a feminist protest from the new born women’s lib movement. It made international headlines when it left the chauvinist flippant beauty contest host Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear), who once snagged a contestant while hosting, covered in flour thrown in bombs by the radicals. The piggish Hope shows no sense of humor, and can only respond by saying “Who are these bastards?!” .
The protests disappoints the Miss World organizers, London businessman Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) and his wife Julia (Keeley Hawes), who introduce ladies of color into the contest, such as Jennifer Hosten-Miss Grenada (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Loreece Harrison as Pearl Jansen (Miss Africa South), one black and one white contestant from South Africa, hoping to make the contest more appealing to those who think it’s outdated. It results in Miss Grenada becoming the first black Miss World .
University history student Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley), graduating to a professor, feels slighted by such beauty contests and believes that’s why men don’t take women seriously even when they’re scholars. Her mom (Phyllis Logan) disagrees.
Sally and fellow feminist Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), the fem group leader, organize the demonstration at the event. Though they don’t always agree with each other, they find enough common ground to attack the sexist event for its backward depiction of women.
The film keeps thing popping throughout, as it blames society for making women sexual objects and covers the inner workings of the beauty pageant by showing how the contest seeks ratings by making the Prime Minister of Grenada, Eric Gairy (Clarence Smith), into a contest judge in order to get ratings in the Caribbeans.
Lowthorpe tries not to demean any of the women, as she only wishes to open up these beauty contests for debates. Over the years a taste for them has not gone away but seems to have diminished. The film is always kept light and not meant to even ridicule Bob Hope–the film’s chief villain.
REVIEWED ON 10/3/2020 GRADE: B