Ok, I get it: Birds of Prey did not immediately shatter box office records. But let's not let reports of a "disappointing" opening weekend cloud the truth: this movie slaps. The direction is stylish and solid, the fight scenes are creative, and it's definitely more than a little gay. What's the secret to this movie's success after Suicide Squad's overwhelmingly negative critical reception?
Shocking twist: it's women.
Minor spoilers ahead.
First, let me lay a couple things out for you. 2016's Suicide Squad, which featured Jared Leto's notorious portrayal of the Joker, was bad enough that DC released another Joker movie literally three years later. David Ayer, whose other projects include fantasy racism buddy-cop movie Bright, wrote and directed Suicide Squad. While I won't use this space solely to shit on David Ayer's other projects, I will remind the readers that Bright, which Ayer directed and produced, features Will Smith saying the words "fairy lives don't matter today." Ruminate on that for a moment.
Birds of Prey, on the other hand, was written by Taiwanese-English screenwriter Christina Hodson and directed by Chinese-American filmmaker Cathy Yan. As a Korean-American, I am particularly excited by this dynamic duo of Asian excellence; you probably understand the importance of representation and diverse stories to some extent, so I won't belabor that point. But I digress.
Ultimately, this is a film in which four hot and traumatized women who have been wronged by patriarchy beat up shitty men in order to protect a thirteen year old girl. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by how little space is given to validating the behavior of men in this movie. A revenge film without the often-included graphic on-screen rape scene, Birds of Prey is free of the male gaze that has always muddied, for example, the work of Quentin Tarantino. Instead, we get two hours of men being shitty, and women punching them for it. It's nice.
If that's not enough to persuade you - here's 9 reasons to buy a ticket to Birds of Prey:
1. Margot Robbie is transcendent, as always, in her role of "absolutely bonkers white lady."
2. The visceral, stylized violence of a Tarantino, but without the lingering shots of Uma Thurman's feet.
3. Harley feeds a man to her pet hyena when he tries to make a pass at her.
4. Harley gets really into roller derby; this, in my opinion, proves that this film is specifically for The Gays.
5. Jurnee Smollett-Bell does some very good high kicks in tight metallic pants.
6. Mary Elizabeth Winstead wears cargo pants and a crop top.
7. Newcomer Ella Jay Basco absolutely CRUSHES her big-screen debut!
8. Harley shoots a cop with a confetti cannon??
9. Ultimately, the lesson of the movie is one we could all stand to be reminded: every man will let you down.