Barbie Film Review

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Posted 2023-07-31 by Luke Applebeefollow
Barbie – Film Review

Good but not great, Greta Gerwig's Barbie plays on a see-saw that swings from fun to serious amid feminism, patriarchy and horses in consumerist, corporate America.

This review contains spoilers

The opening scene is a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey with Margot Robbie's 'stereotypical' Barbie standing in as the ominous monolith. Only she is bikini-clad and smiling, surrounded by little girls who are playing with their porcelain dollies –and just like the apes of the sci-fi classic where they turn to violence, using bones as clubs and smashing skulls, in response to disruption, the children in this instance decide to demolish their toys.

The Barbie revolution here is as violent as it is didactic, reinforcing the notion that the doll is more than a product, it is a social construct that empowers women to be anything.

It's a positive message (initially) that Helen Mirren as narrator rams home and soon enough we're transported to Barbie Land and meet 'stereotypical' Barbie as she enjoys her daily routine which always ends in one massive party with her fellow Barbies much to the disappointment of Ryan Gosling's Ken who is trying to spend more time with her.

Like the LEGO movies, the environment features actual merchandise such as the houses, accessories and vehicles. You may even be familiar with the apparel they flaunt in style.
Your enjoyment of Barbie will depend on what you want from it though.

Personally, if it all took place in the surreal Barbie Land, with no connection to the real world, I would have preferred that. However, the plot demanded a circumstance where playing with a doll in the real world and influencing it with depression and negative thoughts, can mentally and physically affect 'stereotypical' Barbie in her imaginary dimension. She is forced to confront her human (tormentor?) to resolve the situation.

The 'magic' doesn't make sense. It's not meant to nor are we supposed to dwell on that. Except you can't help but not call out such a weak premise.

Rather than lean on nuance and sophistication, Gerwig, instead, favours oversimplification and stereotypical characters to tell a story that actually puts both women and men down. The 'message' is masked by humour so as to laugh off the pontification. Pure cringe. Sure, the message of empowerment, in the beginning, was fair enough, and arguably sexist in execution, the actions of our main characters devolve into one-upping the other gender rather than working together to overcome adversity and achieve true gender equality. But that is the point, right? To make the men in the audience squirm?

Often the funny moments were incidental from Ryan Gosling's performance (hamming it up with his body language) to Michael Cera's Allan being, uh, ... Michael Cera.

It's the hypocritical mistreatment of Ken that sticks out like a dog-chewed hunk of plastic. It could be argued that he meted out what the Barbies did to the Kens. Justice! Instead, we're supposed to be outraged at Ken's newfound penchant for patriarchy and horses because it establishes a dichotomy of feminism good, patriarchy bad.

This oversimplification of ideas and ideals is ironically frustrating for sensible discourse on the subject. Nothing is ever straightforward and not allowing room for extrapolation makes for a basic conversation and blindly accepting what has been presented as truth, the way it is. Again, this is the point. The material we're subjected to has an agenda and we the people consume it, digest it and are expected to praise it. What happens if you ask questions? Maybe a vocal contingent of the audience will explain why you're wrong and defer to feeling rather than fact.

It's all tongue-in-cheek until it isn't. That tonal shift back and forth from making a political statement then going for a laugh is tiring – especially if you fundamentally disagree with it. These snarky lines peppered throughout unfortunately break immersion and feel too forced as though the Mattel Board demanded a KPI for sass per minute.

Gerwig needed to set Ryan Gosling's Ken on the antagonist path and subvert expectations of a predictable romance. We get it. This is something that will disappoint anyone hoping for a traditional love story though.

The ending almost restores the status quo in Barbie Land although the Barbie administration does place a Ken in a seat of power in government mocking a perception of the real-life struggle of women achieving equal opportunity in consumerist, corporate America.

Meanwhile, Barbie tackles a new and exciting adventure.

A better message, perhaps, would be the Kens and Barbies uniting to work together to strive for equality. If you can't tell, I didn't vibe with the overarching message even though some outcomes were ok.

Will Ferrel, the face of Mattel, or Mother if you will, was mildly amusing in the board room and didn't do much in service of the plot from there. He didn't need to be such a focal point in the story. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that he wasn't needed and I agree.

Tame Impala's hit when they bridged the worlds is a banger of a track only eclipsed by Gosling's Ken anthem leading into the beach-off.

I liked the surreal Barbie World and thought the real-world crossover was more miss than hit. It's a shame the ham-fisted commentary bogged down what was otherwise a fun time.


261698 - 2023-07-30 08:36:47


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