The journey to Barbie Land is well worth it
Greta Gerwig’s take on the classic doll is fresh and funny.
Greta Gerwig’s take on the classic doll is fresh and funny.
If there’s only one truth in the universe, it’s this: Greta Gerwig knows how to write a speech about womanhood.
With a directorial filmography that includes “Lady Bird” (2017) and “Little Women” (2019), her newest enterprise, “Barbie,” begged the question: Can Gerwig make something even better?
The short answer is “no.” But, overall, “Barbie” is pretty damn good.
Firstly — and most importantly for a movie about Barbie — it is a lot of fun. Barbie Land, the home of all the Barbies and Kens, is dreamy and immersive. Jacqueline Durran’s costume design cannot be ignored. The utopia of beautiful dolls is as pink as one could dream. Plus, the shoutouts to rare Barbie pieces throughout the film are a cute touch; it’s small moments like those that make the film so memorable.
Every actor in the film gives a top-notch performance, and “Barbie” has a lot of star power. Ranging from comedians like Will Ferrell and Issa Rae to popstar Dua Lipa, it seemed like every scene brought a new familiar face.
Margot Robbie proves herself to be the perfect Barbie. Dubbed “Stereotypical Barbie” for being the classic blonde, blue-eyed, slim Barbie, Robbie provides endless empathy and energy to the role. Even with Ryan Gosling’s hilarious Ken attempting to take center stage, Robbie never lets the viewer forget that it is “Barbie.”
Michael Cera’s Allan — the sole “Allan” in Barbie Land who is described as Ken’s “buddy” — was, of course, another highlight. A breath of fresh air from the Kens, Allan is always right on time for a bit of comic relief.
The true star of the show, however, was America Ferrera, who gave the performance of her lifetime. Her acting as Gloria is one that most actors can only dream of achieving. The mother of Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) and executive assistant at Mattel, Gloria represents the struggles mothers and working women face — the impossibility of living up to the expectations set for women.
Gloria finds herself in a depressive state, which is ultimately what brings Robbie’s Barbie to the real world. The chemistry between the two actresses is electric from the beginning. One a seemingly impossibly perfect doll and one a human, their bond and the love they show one another make the movie what it is.
Mothers, sisters, friends, strangers — this movie gives unconditional love to women who carry all types of roles. It is a pure love — no hidden undertones or prices — that women rarely get to see depicted. It seems impossible to leave the theater and not have an intense desire to tell every woman she is loved and valued.
Yes, “Barbie” is a feminist film, but despite some loud voices online proclaiming “Barbie” as “anti-man,” the Kens absolutely get their moment. While a lot of the movie’s comedic moments come at the Kens’ expense, the guys ultimately end up in a better place than they started. (Perhaps excluding Gosling-Ken, however, his ending will be healthier in the long run.)
The complaints of misandry are wildly false. However, there are some valid qualms to have about “Barbie.”
The most glaring of the film’s issues is obviously that Depression Barbie was all wrong. She should be watching the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice” rather than the 1995 BBC version.
“Barbie” is obviously an over-the-top production. There are sequins, non-functional houses and endless costume changes. The film never backs down. The script, though, could have been a little toned down. Co-written with Noah Baumbach, “Barbie” is hilarious and sweet, that much is undeniable. However, it never quite leaves a moment to rest. Subtlety is something that Gerwig has proven to be so good at in “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” that it seems a shame for it to be missing in “Barbie.”
Between Gosling and Ferrell, there was always a comedic bumbling idiot around that drew attention. Slower moments — like Barbie’s meeting with Ruth, the brain behind the Barbie doll, and the heartwarming scene when Barbie tells an older woman she’s beautiful — weren’t given the time to sit. The jokes are fun, but those scenes are the moments that make “Barbie” a standout film. They should have gotten more.
Gerwig also seemed to have limitations while making “Barbie.” It is the first movie from Mattel Films — Mattel being the company that created the Barbie doll. Gerwig was willing to poke fun at Mattel — making jokes about a male-run company and calling out the doll’s propagation of unrealistic body standards. She was even willing to go head-to-head with Mattel executives to defend her vision, Gerwig said in an interview with Time magazine. That being said, it can be hard to detach the consumerist side of Barbie from the movie. With the movie directly related to the parent company, it begs the question of whether Gerwig could have pushed the jokes and callouts further.
“Barbie” may not have been perfect, but it is a must-see movie. It seems the world agrees, as its opening weekend marked the largest box office debut ever for a woman director. With a whopping $155 million in North American ticket sales, “Barbie” is absolutely getting what it deserves. The camaraderie of pink-clad movie-goers felt like a world-stopping moment. Hopefully, “Barbie” will pave the way for women directors to stop the world again and again.
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