by Greta Gerwig Barbie The film dominates the world with a sprawling and spectacular marketing campaign that is impossible to ignore. Now that the movie is finally hitting theaters, can it live up to the hype of anticipation? It is complicated.
In some ways, Barbie is exactly what online fans are scouring the Barbie selfie maker and those true-to-dollar red carpet looks desire. Gerwig – with the help of an army of incredible craftsmen – has made Barbieland a wonderful reality of towering dream homes, impeccable fashions and everything violently pink. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are masterfully paired as “stereotypical Barbie and Ken”, not only achieving the unlikely physical perfection of this iconic duo, but also capturing the youthful fantasy one might assume they possess.
Plus, there’s plenty of daffy humor tied to how kids play with Barbie and some of Mattel’s less glamorous moments. But the plot carefully hidden in the trailers, clips, junket videosAnd music videos can throw several for a loop. And that’s pretty amazing in itself.
What is Barbie about?
Credit: Warner Bros.
The opening of the film, written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, is the hilarious teaserwho parodies 2001: A Space Odyssey. Little girls in the sepia-toned desert play dispassionately with dolls until Barbie pops up like a majestic monolith in her first bathing suit, and the kids become “monkey” to her. A brief introduction proposes that Barbie has been an icon, inspiring girls and solving all issues of sexism – well, as far as the inhabitants of Barbieland, a female-led utopia, know, anyway.
In Barbieland, the Barbies are doctors, lawyers, construction workers, Pulitzer Prize winners and the President. Every day is perfect, starting with a good night’s sleep and a charming morning routine of costume change and heart-shaped waffle and every night ends with a big dance party, followed by a “girls night” – no Kens allowed. (While the Barbies do anything and everything, Kens “beach.”) But all that seeming perfection begins to unravel when the stereotypical Barbie (Robbie) abruptly asks, half-choreographed group dance number, “Have you ever thought about dying?”
Soon, his sleep is no longer so restorative. His breakfast is burnt. His perfectly arched feet flatten. She seeks advice from “Weird Barbie” (a perfectly cast Kate McKinnon), who tells her that the girl playing with her in the real world is in crisis, and it’s up to Barbie to go there and help her. Ken (Gosling) will be there whether Barbie likes it or not.
Barbie is a miracle for a studio film.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Barbie has long been a promise and a pitfall for women. On the one hand, she tells the girls that they can be anything they dream of. On the other hand, she’s a standard we can never live up to with her unrealistic curves, unfazed smile, completely bespoke wardrobe, and ability to be absolutely anything – without any obstacles. of institutionalized prejudice to hold it back.
Incredibly, Barbie covers much of this terrain. Barbieland is an inclusive place, made up of Barbies who are people of color, Barbies with disabilities with aids like wheelchairs and prosthetics, Barbies of different body types, and a Doctor Barbie played by the actor/model trans Hari Nef. It’s a dizzying delight to watch all these women happily working together, living our best imagined lives, where their basic rights aren’t under attack (and everything looks cute).
When Barbie visits the real world; however, she is met with a rude awakening of chat calls, sexual harassment, and a Mattel meeting room full of businessmen talking to her. From there, the film gets blunt in its discussion of sexism and issues of patriarchy. The dialogue on these points ranges from the broadly comic to the personal, but generally has a “Feminism 101” vibe. While some might be outraged even at this level of talk about gender politics in a kid-friendly movie, others will likely criticize that Gerwig doesn’t go far enough here. However, it seems that Gerwig’s main goal with Barbie is to give a voice to girls and young women confronted with the sexist double standard imposed on them by using a doll which has been a blessing and a curse on this point. It’s a candy-coated introduction to feminism.
For one character, Barbie is a symbol of the outdated and unjust standards to which women are chained; for another, she is a shining symbol of the potential that women possess, if only they are given the chance to shine. This conflict not only propels the plot — and Barbie’s own identity crisis — but also enables another political paradox in this big-budget studio film with brilliant IP.
It’s easy to be cynical about toy-based movies, as one might rightly assume that they’re primarily produced for merchandising. It’s hard to argue Barbie don’t play in it, because barbie-mania is sweeping the world with a huge range of related products. Even in the film, specific clothes and dolls become loving, kitschy close-ups. But incredibly, in what is a two-hour commercial for Barbie dolls and all the hyper-feminine fashion accessories, Gerwig builds a thread about the evils of consumerism and the issues with Barbie. A politically-minded tween (Ariana Greenblatt) goes on a rant about the doll’s problems, giving a quick voice to many of Barbie’s detractors. But more powerfully, the third act challenges the concept that our identities are made up of what we own. Even in Barbieland, consumerism and obsession with things are challenged, which feels pretty drastic for a toy movie.
Barbie has classic and comic inspirations; Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are perfect.
Credit: Warner Bros.
During the press tour, Gerwig repeatedly noted that she found inspiration in classic Hollywood musicals. And that’s clear at Barbieland with its beautiful hand-painted backdrops, the 2001 parody, the pink brick road (a nod to The Wizard of Oz), and a flashy dance number reminiscent of Gene Kelly’s dream ballet in An American in Paris. Moviegoers have plenty of reasons to be wary of these details. Yet the tone of Barbie is decidedly modern, favoring a high-energy satirical approach reminiscent of the cult classic by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont Josie and the Pussycats, who also condemned consumerism in pop culture, and recent comedy gem Josh Greenbaum’s Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar(opens in a new tab)which also centers on a lovely couple who love the sand and the sun.
Quite simply, Barbie is meticulously crafted, politically daring (for a studio movie), and downright hilarious. But the film might not have worked without Robbie and Gosling, who completely understand and embrace Gerwig’s blend of classic and contemporary. Of course, Robbie looks just like Barbie, on screen and on the red carpet. However, there’s more to the character than the initial breeze seen in most trailers. As existential fear sets in, Barbie struggles with social pressure to look endlessly happy, even as her mind is rocked by doubt and anxiety. Robbie must navigate the tricky terrain of making a doll’s existential crisis have stakes, and she does it with tender tears and a shining but quivering smile.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Gerwig’s sensational soundtrack expresses those feelings as Barbie struggles to find the words. Pieces of Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and Lizzo provide poignant and playful commentary, while Ken also bursts into song a few times. Once he goes into a full musical number with all the Kens in hilarious indulgence, “I’m just Ken.“The other time…it’s too good to spoil. It’s about a guitar and that’s the hardest I’ve laughed at this very funny movie. And that’s all to the credit of Gosling.
There are a lot of great performances in Barbie, from Will Ferrell as a reliable parody of an arrogant man in charge, Issa Rae as the no-frills Barbie president, America Ferrera as Barbie’s passionate human ally, and Michael Cera as the deviously hysterical Allan. However, Gosling is superb. He brought a lot of Kenergy to the press tour for this movie. But in Barbie it does so much more. He allows himself to be the clown in a way we haven’t seen since. The good ones. He’s not afraid to be absurd, like Jamie Dornan in Beard and star. And in doing so, he becomes the ideal partner for Robbie’s radiant yet confusing Barbie.
In the end, Gerwig did something ambitious and remarkable. She took what could have been a cheap excuse to sell toys and turned it into an accessible political conversation about gender politics, consumerism and the radical act of self-love. Its amazing team has built a dream world that feels so real and tangible you can imagine strutting around on its pink plastic floors and opening its various shiny doors. His cast embraced his vision, throwing themselves into the physical comedy, the fiery pathos, and the film’s most bonkers moments with such abandon that it’s absolutely intoxicating. The result is a summer movie that has more depth than you might expect and demands to be seen on the big screen to enjoy every ounce of all the incredible craftsmanship in front of and behind the camera.
Brief, Barbie is a marvel. Don’t miss it.