Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn or simply Birds of Prey is a crazy onslaught of neon light and glitter bombs and wild music that tells how a group of women find each other and team up to defeat the patriarchy. It was insane and it also made complete sense.

Birds of Prey, recently retitled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, was directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson. Anytime there’s a movie by women, about women, for women you know I’ll be there. Call it what you will, I’ll find it. However, I think dropping “The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” took the heart out of the title. I’m sticking with it.

Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, and Ella Jay Basco in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Although they didn’t begin the movie as friends, the superhero women in Birds of Prey discovered a common enemy and they decided to work together. Girl bonding to the 1000th power.

Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn. She and the Joker just broke up and she was a little upset. She blew up something. Something big. It was her coming of age, her emancipation. Free at last.

The explosion brought her to the attention of the cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and the weirdly sadistic bad guy Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

I don’t know what Joaquin Phoenix did in The Joker to merit an Oscar, but I’m pretty sure Margot Robbie the same thing in Birds of Prey – in high heels and backwards.

Margot Robbie and Ella Jay Basco in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
A woman who rescues a child cannot be a bad person. That’s just arithmetic.

The plot, such as it is, involves several rescues. A singer in Roman’s bar, Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), rescues a very drunk Harley. Then Harley rescues a young pickpocket who ate a 35 caret diamond, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Roman wanted that diamond really badly.

The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) accidentally gets in on the fight over the diamond while she’s busy getting revenge. And Renee Montoya gets suspended from the cops and fights the bad guy with Harley because she knows the diamond is inscribed with information that would put the bad guys away.

Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Margot Robbie, and Ella Jay Basco in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Let’s have a battle in an amusement park while wearing roller skates.

The fight scenes are very stylized with fantastic music and brilliant sets. The stunts were amazing and astonishing. There was a lot of violence. The violence from the men was cruel and unnecessarily torturous. The violence from the women was strictly self-preservation. There’s a big difference in those two. That difference is why films like this are empowering for girls and women and why I enjoyed it so much. Plus, it was funny.

I don’t know what Joaquin Phoenix did in The Joker to merit an Oscar, but I’m pretty sure Margot Robbie the same thing in Birds of Prey – in high heels and backwards.

Harley Quinn is a Ph.D. psychologist who went a little nuts herself. She’s not like Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman. Those women are examples of good girls who do everything right in their public persona and as heroes. But Harley Quinn is a hero despite her chaotic personal life. She fights on the side of right, she sticks with her friends, and she rescues friendly hyenas. She’s a roller derby queen and a quick wit where hand grenades are concerned. I liked her and the other birds of prey very much. They can get together again any time.

A poster for Birds of Prey

Here’s the second trailer released for the movie.

So how about it? Was this an empowering message of strength for young women or something else?

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

7 thoughts on “Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”

  1. i loved this movie. i loved all the performances. these women had power and agency. its not the same kind of movie as “Joker” so i’m not sure one could compare the performances of the two leads – this movie was more fun at the same time as being thought provoking. i will be buying this one when it becomes available.

    1. I know I was comparing apples and oranges. I was just trying to make a point about how women’s films are not regarded as important. I kind of love that Joker fans are willing to talk here (and on Twitter) about my statement without calling me names or hurling slurs. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I really liked it. It was silly and fun wildly stylish. I thought all the actors did amazing jobs in their roles. The cinematography was fantastic and the music was fabulous.

    The one scene that went almost a little too far for me personally was the scene where Roman thought the female patron was laughing at him. That was… very uncomfortable for me. Violence I can handle with ease, but sexual assault in media is triggering for me.

Comments are appreciated!