Dir. Greta Gerwig (2023)
When Barbie's perfect appearance begins to break down, she starts to question her place in the world that has been created for her.
I'll be completely honest: I had absolutely no interest in this movie from the moment I heard about it up until a few weeks ago. As more and more of my friends and acquaintances saw it, their glowing reviews eventually pierced the veil of disinterest and I found myself curious as to whether the movie was actually as good as advertised. As someone who appreciates clever humor, pastel colors, and existential crises, Barbie was right up my non-horror alley. For a film that seeks to explore feminism through a lens that is both modern and honest, Barbie manages to deliver biting social critique while maintaining the tongue-in-cheek humor necessary to spread the message to a public that is generally unwilling to even entertain such ideas.
Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives in Barbieland, a perfectly pink world filled with perfect people, perfect buildings, perfect social graces, and even a perfect wardrobe. Barbie finds herself thinking of the inevitability of death, a subject never before breached in Barbieland, which leads to a slow breakdown of all of the perfect features that have defined her for her entire existence. As celluloid begins to invade her perfect thighs and her feet fail to maintain the perfect arch made for the perfect high-heeled shoe, Barbie begins to learn that her new inadequacies are caused by the person who is playing with her in the real world. This leads her to seek out her owner, and she brings Ken (Ryan Gosling) along for the ride in her efforts. Ken, however, has other plans, and his discovery of the patriarchy leads to his hostile takover of Barbieland, leaving Barbie as the only person standing in his way to prevent her world from becoming just as dark and depressing as the real one.
A movie like this was never going to receive universal acclaim. You simply can't make a movie with a "controversial" topic like feminism and the patriarchy and expect a certain group to appreciate it (you all know the one). Why in the world feminism (and not even radical feminism) is controversial in 2023, I'll never know, but it is nonetheless. Thankfully, while Barbie does come on a little strong at times, its message is empowering and important for all of audience, never overstepping the boundary of becoming too forceful and giving itself an opportunity to be understood.
The film itself is pretty stellar. The writing is clever and amazing, providing a lot more humor than I expected while telling a fully fleshed out story. The acting was likewise good, with Robbie and Gosling doing most of the heavy lifting but even the bit characters making an impact. The real star of the show, however, is the set design and cinematography. If Barbie doesn't win the Oscar for Best Production Design, the Academy has no fucking clue what they're doing. It is a gorgeous movie, packing so much pink punch in every frame that it feels like art come to life. To call it impressive would be an understatement, and I say that as someone who owns not a single damn thing pink.
All in all, Barbie is an impressive movie that deserves many more accolades than it has received (and it was pretty damn well received). I would urge you not to dismiss the film out of hand, though I fear some of my pleas will be falling on deaf ears for people who read a horror movie site. Nevertheless, Barbie manages to accomplish quite a bit for a movie that is ostensibly about a toy that got its start almost 80 years ago. It's careful blend of tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating humor aimed squarely at Mattel's toy empire and it's measured critique of the patriarchy while refusing to castigate men in general is remarkable, a fairly balanced view of the real world which never fails to lift up its targeted demographic of women and young girls. The fact that it stands up to viewing for men as well is perhaps even more notable, a true achievement that makes it worthy of a watch for just about any audience. And man, it's legitimately funny.
Who this movie is for: Comedy fans, Set design nerds, Creepy doll collectors
Bottom line: Genuinely funny and heartwarming without offending anyone who isn't refusing to remain unoffended, Barbie is an incredible film that shows its possible to make a good movie about a toy line. The message is on point, the actors do a fantastic job, and it is a fantastically beautiful film. Greta Gerwig knocked this one out of the park, and while I can nitpick and say that the film's messaging was a little too on-the-nose, especially at the end, nitpicking is all that it would be. I really enjoyed this one, and I think you will too if you give it a shot.