This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Everyone knows about Barbie. The infamous doll that comes in that iconic plastic box. You can dress her up, put her in a beautiful pink dream house, or cut her hair and draw on her (see Weird Barbie). When the Barbie movie was announced, I was unsure what to make of it. I had a complicated relationship with Barbie dolls growing up, which is something Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) explores beautifully in the film. Barbie blew my expectations out of the water.
Barbenheimer is shaping up to be the event of a lifetime, and Barbie certainly lives up to the hype. Barbie is a reminder why the movies are so special because of the heart and care put into it. Propelled by amazing writing, stunning performances, and sarcastic meta comedy, Barbie is truly a masterpiece. Come for the beautiful set pieces and A-list actors, stay for the existential dread and the frustratingly accurate commentary on what it’s like to be a woman in the real world.
Barbie movie review: a brilliant triumph about the pressures of perfection with a dash of existentialism
The titular Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives the perfect life. She wakes up every morning in her ultra-pink dream house, greets the other Barbies, heads to the beach, and never has to worry about paying bills or wanting for anything. One brilliant aspect of this film is how Barbieland represents an idyllic utopia where women rule everything—they make up the Presidency, the Supreme Court, and Mt. Rushmore—and men are just kind of…there. It provides a stark opposite to the real world where men are in control of everything, and sets the tone for the movie.
When Barbie starts experiencing human emotions (sadness, existential thoughts of death), she visits Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) and sets off on a Wizard of Oz-esque quest with Ken (Ryan Gosling) to discover why she isn’t feeling so great anymore. What follows is an incredibly hilarious and satisfying journey of discovery into the patriarchy, capitalism, and human emotion.
The irony is that the Barbie movie is nearly perfect—down to every single detail. The first act personifies exactly what a real-life Barbieland would look like. It draws you in immediately with a pleasing color palette that truly represents paradise. It will be a major disappointment if Barbie does not win an Oscar for production design or costumes. Fans of Barbie history and those knowledgeable in Barbie lore will be happy with the countless Easter eggs and self-awareness of the Mattel corporation.
Aside from the film’s striking aesthetics, the writing is where the Barbie movie shines. Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach crafted an insightful, smart script, beautifully portraying what it means to be a woman in the real world. In one of the best scenes of the film, America Ferrera delivers an extremely accurate and cathartic monologue that moved me to tears.
Through Barbie’s journey, the story exemplifies the everyday struggles women face in a patriarchal society, touching on issues of sexualizing women, and the lack of women in power. I have never felt more seen by a movie in the way that it validates so many of my lived experiences, and the experiences of women everywhere.
Ryan Gosling is just Ken, but his performance is everything
The Barbie movie is truly a feat in casting. Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Stereotypical Barbie, nailing the physicality of an actual Barbie doll, and embodying the range of emotions of a happy-go-lucky doll thrown into an existential crisis. Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, and Alexandra Shipp are stunning as some of the other Barbies, and Scott Evans, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Ncuti Gatwa are excellent Kens. Michael Cera as Allan is a surprising standout, delivering some of the funniest lines of the movie.
However, Ryan Gosling steals the show. His Kenergy is off the charts, giving an Oscar-worthy performance as Ken. Gosling joins the ranks of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and Charlie Cox as Daredevil, playing Ken as if he was born to it.
Gosling gives a breathtaking performance of an 80s style power ballad, channeling his musical theater abilities. There is not a single thought behind Ken’s eyes, but what he lacks in intelligence, he makes up for in musical talent. Playing the earnest but inquisitive himbo who’s sole purpose is to serve Barbie, he nails the deadpan humor and physical comedy that is pivotal to the role.
Fans of Crazy, Stupid, Love, La La Land, andThe Notebook are aware of Gosling’s acting range, this is arguably his best role to date.
Life is fantastic in a world where the Barbie movie exists
For some people, Barbie dolls notoriously represent the traditional standard of perfection, sharing the responsibility for what can only be known as an epidemic of young girls who feel they are not good enough, not beautiful enough in their own skin. However, the Barbie movie takes this notion and turns it on its head.
Barbie’s journey leads to the discovery that perfection isn’t attainable, and that being yourself is more than enough. This is a brilliant choice that defies all preconceived notions of what Barbie stands for. It is what makes this film truly genius, and it is not hyperbole to say it healed parts of my inner child. Oh, to have a fraction of Greta Gerwig’s talent.
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'Barbie' Review'Barbie' Review
- Stunningly beautiful production design
- Stellar acting
- Amazing soundtrack and original songs
- Feminist as hell
- Will make you laugh and cry
- I don't have enough money to see it in theaters as many times as I want to