Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) ★★★★½

margot robbie has a scene where she skates to "barracuda" by heart, just like she did in i, tonya. 10/10 best picture

I just wrote & deleted a bunch of stuff about the superficial elements of BOP that I liked because there's one thing about this movie that struck me in particular and I don't want to write a literary thesis about any movie that has a slow, dramatic cover of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" on the soundtrack. Real quick I'll say: McGregor delivers my favorite villain performance. Smollet-Bell & Winstead are terrific. Movie is beautiful, fun, choreography rules, the humor really worked for me, almost gets too Deadpool-y but bounces back, it's easily my favorite DC film since The Dark Knight (i know i know boo to that phrase shut up) Anyway–

My greatest fear with Birds of Prey (not gonna write the full title but for the record, I fucking love the full title and have loved it since they announced it) is the same fear I have for most modern female-led action films, which is that a cynical sense of direction will get us a bunch of 'Girl Power' T-shirt scenes where someone delivers the kind of corny surface-level-feminism line that has studio heads imagining throngs of women standing to applaud in the theater. (This fear is mostly based on not wanting to arm the type of awful online nerd that keeps 'SJW' as a keyboard shortcut.) Fortunately, Cathy Yan has so much more respect for the audience. The message is there, but it's so much more subtle and rooted in the unspoken empathy she has for the women and the women have for each other.

It's in the way that she manages to make her characters sexy without cartoonishly over-sexualizing their actions or their wardrobe. It's in the way that she has even trusted male character make betrayals, knowing that they're acting without the innate empathy the female characters have through their lived experiences. It's in the way she establishes multiple major queer characters without letting their queerness be their downfall or their standout quality, letting it casually exist in a character's description between their height and hair color. It's in the way she depicts a terrible moment of physical violation that makes a woman vulnerable but refuses to cut to the gratuitous, 'sexy' wide shot of the violation that any male director would've lingered on. She does all of this without sacrificing any of the fun, action, or story of the movie or giving any of the male characters the stupid villainous moment where they go "you're just a GIRL!" before getting their ass kicked and it only makes it work on an even deeper level to me.

I know 4.5 out of 5 stars is an insane rating for this movie. My roommate just walked in and asked how I felt about this movie and I said "You ever really love a movie a lot even though you know you're wrong?" But fuck, I really enjoyed it both as a pulpy soap opera of colorful action and an exhibition of female-driven empathy both inside and out.

Still, cannot stress enough that this movie has a truly terrible slow, somber cover of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" used in a key moment. Very happy for Pat Benatar to get those royalty checks. Very sad for everyone else.

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