Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a breath of fresh air in DC’s otherwise notorious lineup of superhero movies. Taking place after the events of Suicide Squad and a recent breakup with the Joker, the film follows Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as she finds herself teamed up with do-gooders Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who unite to save a young girl from Gotham’s newest evil crime lord. Brilliant performances and a fantastic script result in an imperfect but delightfully irreverent look at supervillainy and more importantly, the bonds between women.
Harley Quinn’s big-screen debut was her role in Suicide Squad but it’s clear that Birds of Prey is the movie she was really destined for. Margot Robbie, who produced the film, campaigned heavily for Harley’s own spinoff and brought on screenwriter Christina Hodson and director Cathy Yan. Hodson’s writing shows a deep understanding of the film’s main character—Harley is allowed to be a villain in her own right. She’s violent and horrible yet outrageously fun, which is also a testament to Robbie’s acting. Hodson’s writing also manages to capture intricacies of female relationships, representing women authentically, even under glitter-covered crime.
There’s also much to be said about Cathy Yan’s directing. Yan’s camera is a welcome departure from the voyeuristic camerawork of Suicide Squad which often lingered uncomfortably on Harley’s body. Instead, Yan avoids the male gaze and depicts her female leads completely in control of their bodies and the way they’re perceived. This stands out in its immaculately choreographed fight scenes, and even in the film’s costuming. Costume designer Erin Benach’s outfits are stylish and capture their wearers’ spirit perfectly. The women in the film are allowed to be sexy without being for the consumption of men.
Still, for all the good that can be said about Birds of Prey, the movie struggles with its pacing, often jumping back and forth between points in time. While this jumping around is a good indication of Harley’s mental state, it detracts from the flow of the film and becomes distracting. The film also opts to use a soundtrack instead of a score which at times adds to its frenetic energy but at others makes it feel too much like a music video. However, in spite of these flaws, Birds of Prey is thoroughly enjoyable thanks to its energetic script and the actors’ delivery. Margot Robbie enjoys herself every moment she’s playing Harley and it translates completely in her performance. And although the film’s cast is dominated by women, it would be a crime to overlook Ewan McgGregor’s performance as Black Mask. He embodies the narcissistic criminal fully, hitting every line with perfect comedic timing and dramatic flair.
Birds of Prey is a joyous celebration of what women can accomplish when they’re not held back by men. It doesn’t attempt to be something that it’s not—it’s a movie about women kicking ass and taking care of one another, and it’s immense fun. Who could ask for more?
Valerie Lopez is a film intern who loves hearing herself talk about movies almost as much as watching them.