HomeReviews‘Barbie’ Review: Greta Gerwig Strikes The Balance Between Comedy, Commentary & Camp

‘Barbie’ Review: Greta Gerwig Strikes The Balance Between Comedy, Commentary & Camp


Barbie is a surprisingly profound film, more philosophical and existential than one initially would expect from a franchise rooted in plastic fashion dolls that became a cultural icon in the late 1950s. This was a period in time when young girls were in desperate need of role models, and Barbie came along as a vehicle to convey the message of independence, which is the theme of Greta Gerwig’s film.

Written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, the film begins with Stereotypical Barbie (Robbie) having a perfect day in Barbie Land, her perfect pink town. She gets ready without even putting on clothes and drinks from cups with nothing in them. She doesn’t eat or clean because everything is predestined to function. Barbie Land is run on female energy, and they serve in every possible working position — Supreme Court justices, doctors, scientists. Women can be anything they want to be here. Stereotypical Ken (Ryan Gosling) and all the other Kens exist only to serve their Barbie counterparts.

A Barbie beach house party filled with choreographed dancing is halted by Miss Stereotypical questioning if anyone else thinks about death. The next morning, things are way off. Barbie isn’t wearing pink, the breakfast burns, milk is expired, and her pointed feet go flat — then it hits her that she’s having lingering thoughts of existential dread. To find out what’s going on, she has to go to the home of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) and is told she has to enter the real world to find the girl who owns her version of the doll. There is some mental crossover that’s causing Barbie to have feelings she doesn’t know how to deal with. Although the mission makes her nervous, she’s excited to step into a new environment because thanks to her, women rule the real world too, right?

Get ready for a big slap of reality, ma’am.

What Baumbach and Gerwig’s script does well is give characters an ultra-awareness of their surroundings. Barbie recognizes its own surreal existence: a world where perfect plastic figures wrestle with humanistic imperfections. It acknowledges that change, even when challenging, is necessary and that perfection is an unrealistic and even undesirable goal. Issues of feminism and patriarchy are serious topics, but the writing duo managed to state their values with the right amount of levity and camp so that it doesn’t distract from the film’s message — which is all about finding yourself and finding balance. 

Robbie, in the titular role, is as remarkable as ever. Her commitment to her roles is well known, and Barbie is no exception. She imbues her character with a depth and complexity that elevates Barbie beyond the plastic persona associated with the doll. Robbie is backed by an equally talented cast including Gosling — who serves up camp so well — McKinnon, America Ferrera, Michael Cera, Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, Emma Mackey, Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Ncuti Gatwa, Alexandra Shipp and others, all of whom deliver compelling performances.

Sarah Greenwood’s meticulous production design, Jacqueline Durran’s vibrant costuming and the artistry of the makeup department truly shine and are the technical MVPs of Barbie. Each set is thoughtfully designed and each costume purposefully tailored, creating an aesthetic as plastic-perfect as the doll itself. Their work is the backbone of the movie, emphasizing that the magic of Barbie doesn’t just lie in the script or the performances but also in this campy, illuminated world created by these talented artists.

However, just like the world’s environment, this is an imperfect film. It stumbles somewhat in its handling of its characters of color. They mostly are used as devices to push the Stereotypical Barbie and Ken narratives forward, which sideline the notion that humanity should act as equals. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt because maybe that was the point? That type of visibility does reflect the state of the world, for the most part. 

There also are periods of the film that lag. There is a tight 95-minute movie here, but it’s crammed with pointless dance scenes and musical numbers that are just filler and nothing else. But despite the shortcomings, the film’s concluding segments offer a nuanced approach, where both women and men collaboratively fix their own communities, based on the lessons they’ve learned. This illustrates a vision of collective action and a hope for a future where everyone actively participates in creating a better world.

In essence, Barbie is a film that challenges the viewer to reconsider their understanding of societal norms and expectations. While it may be centered on a plastic entity, it is very much a film about the human condition — our strengths and our flaws. It is a reminder that even within the most superficial elements of our culture, there can exist an unexpected depth and an invitation to discourse. Gerwig’s directing is an earnest exploration of identity, societal structures and the courage to embrace change — proving once again that stories can come from the most unusual places.

Title: Barbie
Distributor: Universal
Release date: July 21, 2023
Director: Greta Gerwig
Screenwriter: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Cast: Margo Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, and many, many others
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr 54 min

Content Source: deadline.com


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