Althea Barrett (althea-barrett)

abarrett10 [ at ] stuy [ dot ] edu

Althea Barrett ('21) is an Arts and Entertainment writer. She enjoys writing reviews of media most of all but also likes writing recommendations for recipes and thinkpieces about media-related topics.

Harley Quinn: Idiot Extraordinaire

“Suicide Squad” hit theaters with a very mixed reception way back in 2016. Some people loved it; some hated it; and after seeing the film over winter break, I have landed firmly in the latter camp. Nearly four years later, “Birds of Prey, and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, acts as the sequel to “Suicide Squad”, revolving around Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). After being dumped by the Joker, Harley finds herself in a tricky predicament, with half the city out for blood for the tricks she pulled under her ex-boyfriend’s protection. This quickly spirals into Harley’s quest for a diamond to bribe Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who has a particularly long list of grievances, to spare her life. This movie is commonly referred to as a hot mess—and it owns it. The whole film is so gloriously stupid, with every character being an absolute moron. The plot is so convoluted that it becomes completely unpredictable, and Black Mask is over-the-top in every possible way. There are many problems with “Suicide Squad”—many, many problems—but most of them can be summed up with the overarching flaw that the movie tries to take its silly premise way too seriously, something “Birds of Prey” avoids completely. “Birds of Prey, and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” has a premise that is almost as stupid as bribing supervillains into cosplaying as Superman, but doesn’t try to play it straight. The protagonist Harley has a pet hyena named after Batman and shoots confetti bullets. The villain throws a tantrum almost every time he’s onscreen. Little doodles are drawn over every minor antagonist’s face to break the tension and segue into the humorous crimes of Harley’s past. This is a stupid, stupid movie, but it runs with this concept completely, making it glorious. All of the characters in this movie are great. Alcoholic detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is hilariously over-the-top. Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) does a phenomenal job acting as the straight man to everyone’s antics, and Mary Winstead’s Huntress is amazing too, though she only appears near the third act. But the star of the show is ultimately the main character: Harley, the queen of stupid. She acts as both the main character and the narrator of the story, maintaining a constant sense of silliness in what would have been an overly-edgy premise to keep the film from taking itself too seriously. Her personality is overplayed and ramped up to the max at every opportunity, and Robbie does an excellent job of making sure it stays consistent. Harley’s personality also lends itself excellently to the fight scenes, which are a spectacle in and of themselves. Though this movie calls itself “Birds of Prey,” it is not really about the members of the Birds of Prey. It is about Harley—and this is what ultimately saves it from becoming another “Suicide Squad.” Her perspective lends a sense of humor to this movie that its predecessor lacked, which prevents the film from taking itself too seriously and contrasts wonderfully with the dark, R-rated situations that the protagonist is thrown into. It is not a masterpiece, however. Stupid can be fun, but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it might get a little tiring for some viewers. The villain’s petulant attitude in particular wore me out after a while, and he’s not nearly as interesting as the other characters. The movie also flits back and forth from flashback to flashback, which often becomes confusing. There are more holes in the story than in a block of swiss cheese, but they are small enough to look past for the sake of enjoying the movie. Overall, “Birds of Prey, and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is fun. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not perfect. But it’s fun. All the characters are entertaining in their own right and bounce off of one another decently. Despite its own problems, the film easily ducks all the major flaws that plagued “Suicide Squad” in 2016. If watching something silly is satisfying for you, then this movie is a very good pick.

Issue 11, Volume 110