Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a surprising film that makes time for identity crisis and life and death swathed in a female empowerment package. Margot Robbie’s acting chops continue to impress as she balances the comedy as a Barbie losing her footing, literally, with the deeper themes explored in this exciting package. After thoughts of death and her become flat, Barbie learns she must head to the real world to find the person who played with her doll. Though it initially felt like a cash grab for me from WB and Mattel, thanks to the cast and crew, Barbie becomes endearing and even larger than its classic long-standing toy.
Directed by Greta Gerwig and written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, this brightly colored, delightful film captures lighthearted fun that uplifts you. But it’s not all airy, and deeper thoughts about how identity and toxic traits get time as well. I love the opening and how it uses the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey to capture a hilarious transformative change that Barbie’s introduction to the toy world presented. Albeit exaggerated, Barbie should be over-the-top dramatic. Barbie (Margot Robbie) exists in Barbieland. A joyous land where women hold all prominent positions and men try to impress the Barbies, especially Margot Robbie’s Barbie.
Barbie Has Two Worlds Collide
Though I adored only the color Black in my youth, I appreciate and love bright colors now. Bright colors can lift one’s spirit. Barbie is awash in shades of pink. It starkly contrasts when Barbie and Ken (Ryan Gosling) enter the real world. This is our world, as Barbie experiences derision from girls and sexualization from men. Barbie was a game-changer from the diaper-changing toys that preceded her. However, Barbie still played toward a particular look before more diverse Barbies made the scene. Barbie explores how what looks like a step forward in women’s equality and empowerment for some during a specific decade can be detrimental, even a step back in hindsight.
This Cast is On Point
Margot Robbie is stellar, as per usual. Even in the first Suicide Squad, she was one of the best. Although little else about the film made an impact. Her mannerisms and expressions convey ranged emotions. That’s why Margot Robbie always captures your attention. Ryan Gosling is outstanding! He portrays a man-child to a T. Issa Rae is quirky and wonderful, as is Alexandra Shipp, and their personalities shift as Barbieland changes. Each character delivers those changes perfectly and mirrors society. Some women crave independence and women who’d instead prefer a man to make decisions for them.
Barbie is perfect summer fun. It has meaningful moments and wacky fourth wall breaks that immerse you in the film. You dare to believe a Barbieland is a hop, skip, and high-heeled strut away. It’s uplifting and cautionary that vigilance and camaraderie are necessary to create an equal world, but the film does not preach. Barbie touches on weighty topics in our current societal climate yet does not take itself seriously in the best summer blockbuster way. Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Issa Rae, and the rest of the cast deserve high praise for creating an arresting and festive gem. Barbie breaks out of the box figuratively and literally.
*This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.