Released as a Netflix original on May 25, Netflix’s “Ibiza” tells the hilarious story of three fiercely independent and self-deprecating women as they navigate the party landscape of Barcelona and Ibiza, Spain.
Sent on a business trip as a test of her professional strength by her intense boss Sarah (Michaela Watkins), Harper (Gillian Jacobs) flies to Barcelona. She is joined by her two best friends, Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson), who invite themselves on the trip.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
As Harper’s focus rapidly evolves from business to pleasure, she finds herself meeting a handsome and clumsy DJ by the name of Leo West (Richard Madden). Sparks fly between Harper and Leo. As she is encouraged to follow him to his gig in Ibiza by her friends, Harper’s crush on Leo intensifies.
Primarily, “Ibiza” exceeds expectations by presenting both genuinely hilarious and empowered women. The film displays many examples of unquestioned female power. All three of the female leads work steady jobs and are able to support themselves sans romantic partners.
In her performance as Harper, Gillian Jacobs exemplifies relentless ambition and quirky strength in her professional endeavors. Her journey from a slightly timid employee to a headstrong, risk-taking free agent is documented by the bold decisions she makes during her trip to Spain, and upon her return to New York.
Flanked by Vanessa Bayer and Phoebe Robinson, the trio set the stage for a marvelous film that showcases confident women in power positions, both professionally and in their relationships with men.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is its ability to accurately portray the female experience. Admittedly, “Ibiza” feels set in a dreamscape at times because of the constant party scenes and coincidental encounters. However, when there are opportunities for realism, the film takes them.
Viewers are introduced to Harper as she rides the subway. She’s pushed up against a wall and clutches her bag tightly and uncomfortably on her lap. Next to her, a male passenger manspreads into the space where Harper’s legs would have rested.
She rolls her eyes, but doesn’t wake the man to make him move. In this five-second interlude, the film has already accurately described the daily life of any average women. Harper must deal with manspreading, and she chooses to do so silently and passively. This subtly indicates and foreshadows one of the film’s strong suits: its realism.
Ever so realistically, the women enjoy and audibly “mmm” while eating Cinnabon at the airport before their flight. They drunkenly order empanadas in Barcelona and munch while seated on the city’s steps. Viewers even get a glimpse of Nikki’s shapewear sticking out from underneath her dress. As Harper’s eyeliner runs as it would if she really were to party all night, “Ibiza” moves hilarious, harmless and realistic portrayals of female drunkenness to the forefront.
Wonderfully so, all three women speak about sleeping with men in unapologetic and confident ways. They seem to effortlessly control and take pride in their sexuality. When interacting with any man in the film, Leah is poised, self-assured, and generally unaffected by male party-goers comically over-the-top advances.
Nikki, too, commands her flirtationship with Harper’s client, Diego, with a goofy suaveness that allows viewers to root for the entertaining pair. “Ibiza” lets viewers experience a world in which both men and women make advances on each other. Women are able to pursue who, and what, they want boldly.
This reality certainly rings true in the relationship between Harper and DJ Leo West. Both characters, though adorable, seem to connect over their shared sense of awkward charm. Though Leo is an internationally famous DJ and Harper happens to not be famous, their relationship never feels imbalanced. She is not portrayed as chasing after a man of whom she is not worthy. Their attraction is believable and empowering.
Though the circumstances are bizarre, Harper takes complete control of seeing Leo again after their first meeting. She calls him first, suggests he end his set early and spend the rest of the night with her and very honestly tells him that she followed him to Ibiza to see him again. “Ibiza” shows that their connection is not about playing games or any sort of pretending. Harper and Leo enjoy each other, and they are refreshingly unashamed of that.
Leo makes this clear through an exchange during a scene between the two in his hotel room. While kissing, Harper exclaims that Leo is “flawless” and “that’s why this is perfect.” Immediately shutting down the narrow physical flattery, Leo suggests “or maybe we just like each other.” With one gentle line, “Ibiza” makes a triumphant statement that relationships can be both equal and based on non-physical, witty connection.
Sober or under the influence, the women in the film continuously build each other up. During one of the movie’s many goofy party scenes, Nikki tells Leah and Harper that they are “amazing,” and “smart and beautiful” and that they can “do anything that [they] set their minds to.”
Moreover, amidst her quest to track down Leo in Ibiza in an effort to rekindle the magic they found in each other in Barcelona, Harper appreciates the time she has spent with her friends. Seated on a beach, enjoying the sunset, she tells Nikki and Leah that “if this is as good as this trip gets, it’s pretty good.”
Beyond meeting Leo, Harper’s enjoyment in Spain is a result of Nikki and Leah’s encouragement and enthusiasm. The film makes it clear that Harper’s transformation is spurred by her ambition in taking risks with her friends in Spain, not due to her connection with Leo.
Overall, in a subtle way, “Ibiza” is realistic in that it is able to address its own ridiculousness. Harper knows that she runs the risk of missing her breakfast meeting if she flies to Ibiza, yet she decides to so anyway. Unlike other films which may forgive this, realistically, she misses the meeting and gets fired.
But, in true “Ibiza” fashion, Harper’s story does not end there. As a testament to how her trip changed her, she ambitiously decides to start her own business at the end of the film. She owns up to her mistakes, yet doesn’t let them get in her way going forward.
At its close, the film further makes its point by displaying female strength and independence as Harper suggests that Leo come visit her in New York. When faced with the choice to follow him to Tokyo on tour, Harper, though unemployed, ultimately chooses herself over her relationship with Leo. She prioritizes her own future success while also taking complete control of any relationship she will have with Leo.
In contrast to the way in which the audience is introduced to Harper trapped on the subway, the film’s final shot displays her seeming freer and more excited for her future. She stands on the subway in an empty car, smiling to herself and listening to music.
Her life hasn’t magically changed, but her outlook and drive have. Harper’s expression captures a very real and special feeling: empowerment. At the end of her fairytale vacation, she doesn’t need a prince charming. She’s able to find her own happy ending.