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Birds of Prey (and the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

· entertainment,film review,harley quinn,warner brothers,dc comics

Birds of Prey is a simple movie about the best breakfast sandwich a girl can get in Gotham City. After a post-break up fueled bender, Harley Quinn takes us through the process of procuring her beloved hangover breakfast sandwich from the corner bodega, which she tragically loses in an Oscar-worthy moment. It takes the course of the entire film until she is finally able to consume her beloved breakfast sandwich and honestly, it was probably the most relateable part of the film.

Let's be real, Margot Robbie was the best part of DC's 2016 Suicide Squad and her return to Harley Quinn is spectacular. As a comic book fan, I found that she embodied everything I could have wished for in this infamous role. She was crazy, she was vulnerable, she was taking risks, and most of all she was sick to death with the bullshit of men.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Credit: DC/Warner Brothers

"A colorful carnival ride of carnage."

Director Cathy Yan managed to make the film's nonlinear timeline flow naturally through Harley's creative narration, entertaining stop-frames, and the overall quirky pacing that matched the tone of the film. In an interview with Inverse, Yan stated that she wanted to focus on women who felt imperfect and she succeeded in crafting a bright world around the darker internal struggles of five women from wildly different walks of life. At times the film meandered, perhaps focusing too much at setting itself apart from previous superhero films with a different tone of voice, but it overall managed to create a cohesive and clever story.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Margot Robbie. CREDIT: DC/Warner Brothers

Harley Quinn's story was interwoven through the lives of four other female powerhouses. Jurnee Smollett-Bell was stunning as the beloved Dinah Lance aka Black Canary. After watching her performance I look forward to the day that we meet her Oliver Queen. I have been a fan of Smollett's since she was Denise on Full House and her clever timing and wit shines through in her portrayal of Dinah.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Huntress was a fantastic take on the character. I adored her awkward approach to Helena and she managed to capture the social awkwardness of someone suffering from PTSD from an early age. In particular the scene where she rehearsed what she planned to say to her victims in front of her bathroom mirror stood out.

Rose Perez was the perfect choice for Renee Montoya. She held her own among Harley Quinn, Black Canary, and the Huntress. I enjoyed the cheeky comments about how everything she said sounded like bad dialogue from an 80s cop movie. That sort of meta was where Birds of Prey was at its best.

My only main gripe with Birds of Prey was their characterization of Cassandra Cain who bore little resemblance to the future Batgirl. This isn't to knock Ella Jay Basco, who did a phenomenal job as the diamond swallowing pickpocket who became Harley Quinn's protege, but she wasn't the Cass we all loved and knew. Hopefully, should Birds of Prey please the Warner Brothers overlords, we'll get to see how this interpretation of Cassandra Cain becomes the character we know from the comic books.

Ewan McGregor's Black Mask was the perfect 2020 interpretation of the character. He was a violent power-hungry man, absorbed with himself and his collection of trinkets from around the world. He used his over-eager henchman Victor Zsasz to do his dirty work and treated Dinah Lance like a bird in a cage that he owned. There was a scene at his night club that made me extremely uncomfortable and it has been the #1 scene people have wanted to discuss with me. It encapsulated so much about the male ego and instantly made me think of the Margaret Atwood quote, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them". Despite how creepy the character was, I was disappointed how easily they killed him without a chance for a future return.

Ewan McGregor and Margot Robbie. CREDIT: DC/Warner Brothers

Birds of Prey was a colourful carnival ride of carnage. It had fantastical costumes, a rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" featuring Ewan McGregor (um, yes please!), an abandoned amusement park battle set to Heart's "Barracuda", and plenty of ball bashing.

How can we not love a movie filled with badass women that was written, direct, and produced by women? This is one girl gang that I'd love to join. There was so much about this film that I loved. It was fun, quirky, and unique. It left me hopeful for the future of these characters in the DCEU.

P.S. When you go to the polls this year, don't forget that Harley Quinn voted for Bernie Sanders.

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