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Birds of Prey lets Harley Quinn soar

Margot Robbie and other strong actresses come together for an unconventional story involving female empowerment.
Photo courtesy of IMP Awards

A strong woman lead brings themes of female independence

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn returns in an effervescent tale that cares about her character. After being relegated to the Joker’s girlfriend for years, Quinn’s character gets revamped and then some in Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. 

The film opens with Harley Quinn blowing up the chemical plant where she professed her devotion to the Joker, but rather than seeing her come out unscathed by the separation, audiences see her broken up by it. Eventually, she joins forces with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth-Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), who all help her move on from her abusive ex. Together, they work to take down Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), one of the most ruthless comic book villains put on screen. Needless to say, Harley Quinn has a lot on her plate. 

The story exudes chaos, to say the least. But it kind of works seeing as it’s getting told from Harley Quinn’s perspective. The timeline gets frenzied at points with frequent flashbacks and its fast-paced style, but the story never dulls. Birds of Prey seeks to engage the audience with its unconventional story structuring, unlike most comic book films in recent years, which are arguably simplistic. 

Nearly every actor gives a solid performance. Robbie is the obvious stand-out as the lead, and she understands Harley Quinn as a person. With wittiness and charm, she breathes life into the beloved antihero and makes her worth rooting for. Ewan McGregor gives both a flamboyant and daunting performance as the film’s villain. He intimidates and unsettles spectators in his portrayal as the torturous Black Mask. 

A female perspective is exactly what Harley Quinn needs and it certainly shows in the film’s writing and direction. Christina Hodson’s script gives Harley Quinn the development that she deserves and Cathy Yan’s colorful style compliments the script perfectly. The two give much attention and care to Quinn as a character. Within the first 10 minutes, Harley Quinn is loved despite her flaws. She’ll break a man’s legs and is cheered on for doing so. 

Some credit should also be given to the costumes and set design. Harley Quinn and her fellow friends rock clothes that are stylish and practical. The set pieces are lively to match Quinn’s multicolored style. Whoever decided that the final fight scene should take place in a funhouse deserves a raise! 

The film can be kind of cringe-worthy at certain points. Sometimes the feminist themes can feel a bit ham-fisted, but it snaps back effortlessly after these moments. The film’s main message of female independence and the importance of girlfriends will resonate deeply with any woman.  

There’s a great poignant moment in the film where Harley Quinn opens up to her friend Black Canary. Quinn states solemnly to her that “a harlequin’s role is to serve.” Well, serve she did in Birds of Prey.

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