Review: Barbie

Who knew that a movie about Barbie would not only draw so much attention and discussion, but also be quite good??

Barbieland, a parallel existence to our own, is thrown into turmoil as Classic Barbie begins to experience thoughts contradicting her fantastic plastic existence. Thoughts of death and despair. This takes her and her friend Ken on a journey to our world… where they might just learn a few things.

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the mind behind such excellent movies as 2017’s Lady Bird, and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Mattel dolls Barbie and Ken in live action, Barbie is a surreal experience. A surreal but hilarious experience absolutely stuffed with subtext and messaging befitting of the often controversial doll from the 1950s.

This is not what you would expect from a toy related movie, not by a long shot. But if you know Gerwig’s body of work it shouldn’t be a surprise. But for Mattel’s first major swing in the Hollywood limelight it is certainly a challenging and memorable movie.
Barbie has near endless “movies” already; these being “straight-to-video” animated films. But Gerwig’s movie takes the product and dissects it; studies the positive and negative impacts such a doll has on us, human beings, and how it may have influenced or even hurt our society.

Barbie and Ken launch a brand new cosplay style.

That’s right, while this is a comedy for the most part, if you go down into its roots this film is about real women, girls and men and how social norms and abnormalities affect all of them.

Barbie comes to us at a somewhat volatile time; with gender equality being a hotly contested topic with many going too far one way or another. This is not a topic to debate in a film review, however Barbie will draw a lot of attention from these discussions. It is safe to say, however, that the film does indeed deliver on a well-rounded insight to these sorts of questions.

Barbieland, a fictional location where all the Barbie doll iterations exist as individuals, is the utopia that one would expect. Everyone is happy, parties happen all the time, pink is everywhere, and it is girls’ night every night. Now, for an example of this film’s intentions: This starting condition is not right. The film does not ultimately say that this saccharine, unbalanced world is the utopia it appears to be. The turmoil that builds up and explodes during the film’s run time is an effect of it, which, without spoiling too much, triggers the journey to correct the issues.

Trouble in Paradise: Flat Feet!

It is quite the move from Mattel, which appears in the film as a boardroom of men in suits led by a bumbling (but surprisingly open-minded) Will Ferrell. They may appear to be the antagonists, but again, the film switches on a dime several times as to who (or what) the “antagonist” actually is. Mattel aren’t seen as saints, but not exactly evil either.

It is a fun movie too, and has a very distinct visual style that definitely makes Barbieland come to life! The beach is pink plastic. The ocean is plastic. No one eats or drinks anything. There are untold hundreds of references that this reviewer is not qualified to address any of. A lot of the humour lands, especially if you are tuned into what it is doing. It is both satire and something of a morality tale. It is massively tongue-in-cheek and cartoonish, yet also driven by genuine values and honesty.

You might see that this isn’t getting a 5/5 score, though. The only issue lies in how subtle it is with some of its subtexts. There are detractors out there who may have missed the point, and that is quite squarely on the film’s mistake. The Kens are wonderfully represented here, Ryan Gosling answers to Margot Robbie’s Barbie perfectly, but the story does a much better job distinguishing and dissecting the plight of the Barbies than it does the issue with the Kens. That is to say: Ken has a great arc as well, no doubt, but it is more subtly played out.

No one saw the success of this film coming. With or without “Barbenheimer”, it seems to have captured a generation and may have reinvigorated the brand for further generations to come. The theatre we went to was the busiest seen in a long time and this was two weeks after release.

Life in plastic truly is fantastic.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *