Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn (2020)

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Food: There is only one meal that is appropriate for this film is, and it is, of course, an egg sandwich. This is not gourmet by any means, but my favorite place to get this is at Dunkin Donuts & I order the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant which is incredibly tasty. That is what I  recommend for this movie!

Film: “Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn” (2019) is an absolute glitter bomb, smoke show of a film. Entering the world of Gotham all from the perspective of Harley Quinn (played again by Margot Robbie, who portrayed her in “Suicide Squad” in 2016), the whole city is brought to life with a vibrancy and energy that we haven’t seen before. Gotham is her playground.

Straight away, the story is depicted through animation and graphics, narrated by Harley Quinn herself, it feels like were observing the doodles and scribbles inside her brain. Screenwriter, Christina Hodson, smartly interprets Harley’s short attention span and unreliable storytelling. She prologues how she got to where she is now, taking us through her previous break up history and how she developed her relationship with “Mr. J” who, of course, is the infamous Joker. The crux of the “Fantabulous Emancipation Of one Harley Quinn” is that she is emancipated. After the Joker dumps her, she is left unprotected by her status as “his girl,” and must fend for herself when her enemies come out of the woodwork. Not only does this work as the perfect storytelling device, but it also cleverly begins to illustrate the power that men wield over women in this world.

As Harley drinks her way through her breakup sadness, we are introduced to a few more key characters who are all mingling around Black Mask club, owned by the charming Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). He is constantly trailed by his boyfriend/henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and he has a special adoration for his club singer, who he refers to his “Little Bird,” AKA Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). She is first seen belting a haunting rendition of “This Is a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”   

With so many female driven films that have been pumped out into the market in the last few years, they are drowning in so much hyped up dialogue that is working so hard to get the feminist nod, it loses its sincerity. Here, however, the writing is much more nuanced and the characters are more dynamic. Black Canary and Harley Quinn chat at the bar, but it is evident that they have not developed any kind of real friendship. Canary seems particularly uninterested in Quinn’s drunken ramblings. However, when Quinn is seen nearly passed out outside the club and being rubbed up on by a predatory man in the early hours of dawn, Canary keeps a watching eye on the situation. She can’t help but be protective. Living in a “man’s world” means that all women look out for each other out of habit; out of being in the same boat themselves at some point. The misogyny is felt subtly throughout, almost like an inside joke among women in the film.  It is feminist and poignant without feeling the need to wop us over the head with it, and that is refreshing.

There is so much to love about this movie. The cast is stellar. We are soon introduced to Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the detective who “always talks like she’s in an episode of CSI,” who is investigating a series of crossbow killings – the work of the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). We also meet Cassandra Cain (newcomer Ella Jay Basco), a thirteen year old pickpocket who picks the wrong pocket, and when she gets hold of one particular sought after diamond, the underbelly of Gotham city is turned upside down and the villains have come out to play.

“Birds of Prey” is a complete and total blast. Robbie is having the time of her life as Quinn, and it is contagious. The R-rating allows all the characters to be fully uninhibited, and the violence is not squelched either. Every fight scene is immaculately choreographed – some of the best of any superhero film. And, in a fantastic moment of clear female influence, Canary gets a hair tie from Harley mid-battle and pulls her hair out of her face. There is a confetti and paint gun used on a police precinct. There’s a spectacularly flashy gas explosion. There are deep cut comic references included in the film, like Harley’s pet hyena, and her taxidermy beaver (which, according to the books, she stole from her first boyfriend). All the costumes are intricately designed to pay homage to the original characters in small ways, and while being naturally sexy and eye-catching, the pieces prioritize functionality. We get the gift we never knew we needed: A glamorous musical tribute to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) and “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) – which even includes Ewan McGregor! We see some of the best roller derby since “Whip It!” (2009). And, fitting for a clown, there’s a whole sequence of the film that takes place inside an amusement park ride. Oh, and a whole scene dedicated to the glory of a bodega egg sandwich.

In a nutshell, this film is everything you could hope it would be and better. It is such a fun movie with heart in all the right places. We get to see some of our favorite characters more unconstrained than ever before, and get to see them tap into something brand new. “Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn” is an extravagant, violent, hilarious comic book film that will leave you wanting more.

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