Synopsis: Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Stars: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, Emma Mackey, Helen Mirren
Teamwork makes the dream work is a fun saying, but it’s accurate; collaboration is such a beautiful thing, and it’s no different in film. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have worked together several times. They have made great films individually, like Marriage Story (Baumbach) and Lady Bird (Gerwig), but those films were not as anticipated as the one we are discussing today.
This is the first live-action Barbie movie—odd considering the toy launched in 1959—and while the film was announced in 2009, after several hurdles, it has finally come to the big screen.
In the film, Margot Robbie plays Barbie, and she lives in Barbieland. She is joined by a host of other Barbies played by Issa Rae (President Barbie), Hari Nef (Dr. Barbie) and Alexandra Shipp (Writer Barbie), to name a few. Barbieland wouldn’t be complete with Ken. Ryan Gosling is the ‘main Ken,’ but of course, there are other’s (played by Simu Liu, Scott Evans and Rob Bryson, again, to name a few).
Barbie is living her best Truman Show life; every day is like the last. She gets up, showers, has her breakfast, jumps down to her car and starts her day. Barbieland is colourful and picturesque. The set decoration is very impressive. We are transported to a large-scale dollhouse that encapsulates Gerwig’s vision. Production Designer Sarah Greenwood and Set Decorators Katie Spencer and Ashley Swanson have outdone themselves.
Things are going well for Barbie until one day, things don’t go as planned, and that’s when she starts to make the connection between her Barbieland world and the real world. After a ‘surprising situation’ arises, Barbie sets off to get some wisdom and tracks down ‘Weird Barbie’ played by Kate McKinnon. Weird Barbie informs her she must go to the real world—Ken tags along for the ride.
In the real world, the roles and perceptions of men and women are completely flipped. Barbie deals with catcalls, and Ken observes how ‘real men’ act.
Barbie finds herself at Mattel, where she meets the CEO, Will Ferrell. While Ferrell is obviously funny, this is the only sequence that wasn’t as strong. Even though they were in the ‘real world,’ it still felt more Barbieland-ish.
Will Barbie be perceived as a feminist movie? Absolutely. But it’s also well-made.
Let’s start with the cast, as it is massive and impressive. Margot Robbie is consistently fantastic on screen, and this film is no different. She ignites the film as Barbie. She has a certain movie star quality that makes the casting of her in the titular role a complete no-brainer. Ryan Gosling is superb as Ken. His comedic timing is on point. As someone who can drift seamlessly between comedy and drama, Gosling shows he can do both. Another actor may not have wanted to be so vulnerable in this role, but not our fellow Canuck!
The supporting cast is also impressive. McKinnon, as Weird Barbie, represents so many things in the film. Her character has an obvious quirkiness to it, and McKinnon seems to breathe life into it effortlessly. There are also some casting choices that make sense, like Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie, who has worked with Gerwig before on her music videos.
Gerwig also seems to have a finger on the pulse of emerging stars as she cast several actors from the Netflix hit show Sex Education, including Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa, and Connor Swindells. Mackey, often mistaken for Margot Robbie, has had well-reviewed performances in Eiffel and Emily, while Gatwa was recently cast as the next Dr. Who.
Kingsley Ben-Adir is also in the film as Ken. He is notable in One Night in Miami and will appear in the title role of the biographical drama Bob Marley: One Love.
Gerwig and Baumbach have written a very entertaining script that does a very solid job of reaching multiple age groups. The jokes are more geared towards an older crowd; many will go over the heads of young children, but they will still be entertained.
The film challenges the norms, but nothing about the film feels forced. You never feel you are being preached to, but it makes you think. “Why is Kate McKinnon’s Barbie ‘weird’?” “Do we treat each other differently based on age, appearance, or gender?”
Yes, it is a feminist film with a strong message, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
From a child’s toy to a movie isn’t always an easy transition, but Gerwig does a great job here. Audiences will be entertained by this film. It was wonderful to view Barbie with the sold-out crowd of women, men, children, and grandparents that were beyond enthusiastic; it’s wonderful being at a screening, especially one with such a passionate fan group. I haven’t seen this many people dressed up for a film since the Star Wars days — I miss those Chewbacca costumes.
There is a lot of anticipation for Barbie, and judging by the audience’s reaction, the finished product delivers!