Director: Greta Gerwig
Barbie is the largest interactive cinematic phenomenon I have ever been a part of, with droves of moviegoers wearing pink swarming theatres and having the literal best time. It has broken records, it has sparked a culture war, it has outshone all expectations; Barbie is a film experience and a moment in modern history like few others. It’s an event that you have to be a part of, that you have to be able to talk about at the water cooler, and apart from that it’s also solid theatre. With a bit of everything for everybody, it can get a little out of hand at times, a little messy, to use an overused term. But when you’re cooking something great, you don’t mind a little untidiness in the kitchen, as long as it all comes out in the end.
Barbie lives in Barbieland, of course she does, with all the other Barbies and all of the Kens as well, with some of the one-off dolls rounding out the demographic. The Barbies think that their awesome feminism must have cured the Real World of all its problems too, and that they basically saved the world from patriarchy. But when classic, stereotypical Barbie begins to have issues like depression and cellulite, they realize that problems in the human land are leaking into their utopia. Barbie heads on a journey to solve the issue, but Ken is so codependent that he comes along as well, picking up a ton of very bad ideas from the machismo of Earth, and attempting to turn Barbieland into a wasteland of mansplaining and beer brewskies.
There is so much to unpack here, and that might be the only problem with Barbie as a film; it’s constant attempts to make every line funny, clever, referential, and a critique on the global patriarchal system as a whole, all at the same time. It’s just too much, we can’t laugh uproariously and nod knowingly and remember our childhood every minute for two hours, it just gets to be a lot, and, really, that’s probably the only negative thing about the film, it could have done with a little paring down and focusing in. Other than that, Barbie was a blast. It’s hilarious, it’s nostalgic, it’s real life masked by metaphor, and it’s unsurprisingly deep, with a fun story that morphs into references to classic outfits and ultimately ends up as a complete deconstruction of abuses of power and the terror men have put women through while also making themselves unbelievably unhappy. Gerwig is amazing, we know that (Lady Bird, Little Women), as is Robbie, and although Gosling steals the show a bit, it’s the cast as a whole who come together to make something special, with cameos galore and no weak points at all. This is an event, a social landmark, and we’ll be remembering the crowded lobbies and the pink outfits for years to come, because neither this memory or this movie are going anywhere.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆