DC can’t do heroes very well, but they sure can do villains. Frenetic, chaotic, and a little psychotic, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a movie that is a fun ride with a compelling protagonist that makes me want to raise a glass in praise rather than drink to forget the movie ever happened.
You Margot, Girl
But this comes with a caveat. This movie is good-to-great because of the truly fantabulous Margot Robbie. She gives Harley a sense of purpose. Harley’s confidence masks vulnerability. Her attitude a defense for rejection. Her emotional detachment merely an ineffective salve on emotional scars. I’m not sure there is another actress that could do this much with this character, and I’m not sure I’d want to see that anyway.
Margot carries this cast. When you’re the titular character, that’s your job. But the supporting actresses, including the amazingly talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosie Perez, exist to fit into her world. When worlds collide, it’s Harley’s that prevails. I’m not particularly attached to any of them, and when they make the sequel (and trust me, there will be a sequel), it wouldn’t bother me if one or all of them were replaced.
Here’s the Story
My main problem is the storytelling. It’s all over the place. But so is Harley, so it makes sense, to a point, to jump around. But the first half to two-thirds is told in narrative exposition by our heroine/villainess. It’s great to get people up to speed who didn’t see previous movies and don’t have a nerdesque grasp of DC canon.
In the process we see why she’s out of control, how abandonment and ambivalence in childhood shaped her life, and how a psycho (Joker) still has her heart. But we learn more about Harley when we see her interact with others. The most moving scene is when she is betrayed by the one person she’s trusted for years. The hurt in her eyes when she realizes that everything, everyone, every action, is transactional. This movie desperately needs more of these moments.
Music To My Ears
The production values on this movie are amazing. The soundtrack is familiar and appropriate. The score is good, but the pop songs really standout. Some songs are by original artists, others are oldies updated and performed by new singers. Music drives this film in an (ironically) unsung way.
Also the use of bright colors dirtied by time and neglect in Gotham are vivid. The scene at the amusement park is a perfect blend of how we’re used to seeing Gotham with a slightly different tint.
Depending on how you view Joker, this is the second or third best of this era’s DC movies. Wonder Woman is still head and shoulders the best. Joker is a great film, but some consider it to be a strict social commentary movie fronted by a popular comic book character.
Either way, I can’t wait to see more of Miss Quinn. Sidekicks are optional.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Margaritas. They are Harley’s go-to drink, and I love tequila.