‘Birds of Prey’ Review: Margot Robbie fantabulously emancipates Harley Quinn from the Joker, and she shines

Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN), dir. by Cathy Yan. Warner Bros. Pictures.

They say to make a good story, you have to start from the beginning.

Birds of Prey, the dazzling, female-fronted action epic about the super-heroine sidekick with no real superpowers that is Harley Quinn, shows Harley’s story from the start. It’s cool, funny, badass and fascinating; and, in pure Harley Quinn fashion, it’s full of glitter.

Starring Margot Robbie in the lead role following up the DC franchise’s introduction to her in 2016’s Suicide Squad, the standalone movie sees Harley reeling from her breakup with Gotham’s most famous criminal, the Joker. We see her in all her shiny-gold greatness, complete with candy-painted pigtails and a wide grin as she goes out on the town and creates her own havoc in Gotham City — getting drunk in nightclubs and breaking limbs when Gotham City crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) calls her “dumb” and a “slut.”

This begins the delightful story of a series of hellbent attacks and a captivating 21st-century feminist movement.

As we learn, Harley, born Harleen Quinzel, grew up with daddy issues and has a Catholic-school upbringing. She became a psychotherapist and when she was assigned to work with the Joker, she fell in love with him, helped him escape asylum, and infamously became the “badass broad” that helped him along his many crimes. Fast-forward to post-breakup and present-day Birds of Prey, Harley drinks and parties her sorrows away, fully-realizing that the world has only thought of her as a silly girl next to a mastermind criminal — and we can’t help but feel for her.

When we completely love someone no matter how much hurt they can do, we empathize with Harley. And this is when her breakthrough comes. When the world soon learns of her breakup, all who she “wronged” in the past want a piece of her.

In an interview with BBC Radio 1, Robbie spoke on the early craze about her character Harley Quinn, saying: “I think there’s going to be a bit of heat around this character. If there’s this kind of response, then the studio might want me to play her again, and if that’s the case, I’d like it to kind of be on my terms.”

Margot Robbie stars as Harley Quinn in BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN), dir. by Cathy Yan. Warner Bros. Pictures.

Portrayed as a party girl who is also a freak, Margot Robbie’s amazing portrayal of the super-heroine is endearing, funny, crazed and stellar. Harley, a part-life shrink who is able to read someone’s psychological profile in a heartbeat, has a certain rationality to her craziness. As she snaps limbs, wittingly arms her bat and charges through a police station blasting a gun that leaves all the men around her collapsed in piles of multi-colored smoke and glitter, she’s completely endearing as she does so.

The pacing of the movie is pure rock ‘n’ roll (with a soundtrack of badass femme vocals and anthems to match). Harley is a ringleader, a party girl, and a psycho siren all wrapped into one. While she’s out running from the cops, all she can think about is her beloved Sal’s breakfast egg sandwich — I mean, who else hasn’t been there?

Written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), comes out this Friday to much anticipation. It sees Harley unexpectedly joining forces with a band of sisters to defeat the villain who is out to get them all. Songbird Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and street thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) all join arms with Harley to create a badass femme fatale flick and band of women that, to my inner feminist and little action-movie-loving self, is so inspired to see.

The movie is fun. It’s exciting. It’s more action-movie than anything else, and has its fair share of comic and relatable girl moments (drunken nights, post-breakup, creepy encounters with the male sex, and lovingly finding a friend in the street thief just painting nails and eating on the couch — which I have to add to newcomer and fellow Filipina Ella Jay Basco, you were awesome).

It’s an important movie for our time and for women. Robbie, who at 29 has made herself an A-list Hollywood star and two-time Oscar nominee for I, Tonya (which she also produced) and Bombshell, produced this film under her own banner, LuckyChap Entertainment, allowing her to have her hands and creative say in one of her biggest leading role’s to date. Just as in the movie, she decided to bring along her own band of women for the film. And, I couldn’t think of any other person better fit to bring Harley’s story to life in the right way.

“Harley is so completely consumed by the Joker,” Margot Robbie said in an interview with the LA Times. “It’s either all or nothing. Either we’re doing a movie about Harley and the Joker or the Joker cannot be there, because if he’s there for even a glimpse that would be her sole focus. So it was really important to kick off the movie with the statement that he’s not in the picture — for better or worse.”

Director Cathy Yan also lovingly made the action scenes play like a rock ‘n’ roll music video, bringing on the feminine rage with classics like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Barracuda” rolling through the girl gang’s fight (to which excited my Heart-fandom), and a cool, updated version of “Sway With Me” by Saweetie and GALXARA. Yan presented her scenes with just the right amount of swiftness and vigor, as Harley side-swept her opponents and ricocheted her baseball bat in pure cinematic joy.

And side note: do y’all remember Charlotte Lawrence and how I caught the debut of her live shows in Los Angeles (Rising Teen Pop Star Charlotte Lawrence Makes Waves At LA Debut)? She made a delightful anthem for the movie and soundtrack, and I can’t get enough of it.

Whatever the case, I’m a fan of Harley Quinn. She lives to tell the story of a rebel girl who was once an accepted professional, yet feels more power and importance in defying the rules and empowering others, rather than just fitting in — and the little girl in me loves to see that.

How stoked are you all to see this movie? What are you most looking forward to seeing, and will you be catching it this weekend?

One response to “‘Birds of Prey’ Review: Margot Robbie fantabulously emancipates Harley Quinn from the Joker, and she shines

  1. Pingback: Margot Robbie is me trying to eat all these ‘Hot Ones’ in new spicy-wing-eating interview | beauty within·

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