Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, Ariana Greenblatt, Simu Liu, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell, and Helen Mirren
Director: Greta Gerwig
All hail Greta Gerwig! The writer/director is 4 for 4 in my book, as she continues to not put herself in a box. This magical gem is more than Kenough. In fact, Barbie is everything, and it genuinely exceeded my lofty expectations. It’s absolutely dazzling, a delightful film that is full of laughter, imagination, and heart. It manages to perfectly blend its campiness and honest social commentaries on fascism and sexism while also allowing Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling to deliver show-stopping performances. This is the blockbuster film of the summer, and it deserves all the love this awards season.
Full disclosure: I went into Barbie armed with low expectations and extreme Barbie fatigue from all the memes. That said, it mostly won me over. It’s fun, there is a good amount of humor (too much of which is in the trailers), and the production design of Barbie Land is impeccable. On the flip side, it’s very preachy, the “toy commercial” of it all isn’t subtle, and it’s essentially a mashup of Last Action Hero and The Lego Movie for those who grew up with Barbie…so, not terribly original. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Is it a masterpiece and one of the year’s best? Not quite.
While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of her previous films, Greta Gerwig manages once more to establish herself as one of the best film directors working today with Barbie. As much a celebration of the doll’s iconography as it is an examination of that very idea and its many tendrils, the film manages to ride the line between corporate product and genuine artistic expression near perfectly. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are expertly matched to each other’s energies, and all the design work – from production to costumes to stages – is outstanding, especially Barbie Land. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a winner.
Barbie has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and while I had some anticipation for it, I wasn’t super excited about it; maybe that helped because it is one of the best and boldest movies of the year. Greta Gerwig’s direction and script (which she co-wrote with Noah Baumbach) is imaginative and thought-provoking in ways I never thought a Barbie movie could be. On top of that, it’s colourful, fun, and easily the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. I truly can’t get Kenough of this one, and I’ll surely be rewatching this in theaters for as long as I am able.
Satire works best when it has some semblance of subtlety and an airtight story, or at least has some funny jokes. Unfortunately, Barbie has none of these. Its belabored sarcasm stresses some very important messages at the expense of natural character development and a purposeful plot. The film succeeds when it drops the wit and just comes out to say what needs to be said (see: America Ferrera’s great monologue), but too often I found myself asking why I’m watching characters I don’t care about in this aimless story. I’ll just rewatch Toy Story 3 to see these characters again.
Before Barbie, I wasn’t enamoured with any of Greta Gerwig's features, but this is easily my favourite of her directorial efforts. Gerwig has crafted a film accessible to all in both its message and its comedy. To those who have viewed it as anti-male, you missed the point, as this is a pure tale of equality told through societal opinions and expectations. The consistently comedic Ryan Gosling and the perpetually underrated America Ferrara are my personal standouts, but there’s justification for many. Obviously, Barbie is an important film for young girls to see, but I think we can all take something away from it.