Believe the Hype: ‘Barbie’ is the Must-See Film of the Summer – Review
Throughout the years, Barbie has proved that she can do and be anything that she wants to be. Now, the most famous doll in the world can add movie star to her resume, with the Barbie movie destined to become a cult classic.
Barbie is brought to life by filmmaker Greta Gerwig in this immensely meta movie that’s as full of social commentary as it is fabulous camp. With Margot Robbie as the titular doll, audiences witness all Barbieland offers. This matriarchal utopia is inhabited by Barbies, who run everything through a feminist lens needed for our society, and the Kens, simply cute guys who are accessories. But all hell, and the fourth wall, break loose when Robbie’s Barbie, a.k.a. Stereotypical Barbie, begins to experience changes that make her less than “perfect”, like flat feet. With the guidance of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), she travels to the “real world” to solve some very real problems interfering with her world and ours in an effort to regain the perfect life that she’s always known.
The hype around Barbie has taken over the world. You can’t turn to any social media platform without having someone talking about their Barbie fever. Thankfully, all of the hype is worth it for Gerwig’s latest creation, which features Robbie in a role she was born to play and Ryan Gosling in a character that’s such a bright spot in his career. It’s a film that balances taking itself seriously while being in on all of the jokes within it.
Barbie is what you get when you actually do social commentary within a film, but made it incredibly comedic. It knows what it’s meant to do, inform and entertain. In Barbie, the social commentary is all the way on the nose in the best way, delivered through character monologues that continuously drag our patriarchal society. It’s then paired with a comical narrative of Barbie experiencing the same things in the real world that the cast critiques to make for a film that stays meta and comical throughout.
It also maintains its level of fabulosity at the same time through grand set designs, chic outfits, and a bop-after-bop soundtrack. But what else would you expect from the most glamorous doll of them all? And while Robbie and Gosling keep the film’s effervescent energy alive throughout, the star-studded cast, which includes America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and more, enhance the film’s whimsical nature and its social commentary.
What also enhances it is the film’s understanding of who Barbie is as a double-edged sword. On one end, Barbie was meant to empower women, but on the other side, she embodies negatives around body image, race, and gender. Both elements of who Barbie is and the impact she has had on society are highlighted in the film, mostly through the narratives of Ferrara’s Gloria and Ariana Greenblatt’s Sasha, Gloria’s daughter.
Gloria works for the Mattel Corporation, helmed by Ferrell’s character known as the CEO, and Barbie was an inspiration and a source of empowerment for her. As for her daughter Sasha, Barbie represents everything that she sees wrong with how society treats women. In a scathing monologue instigated by Sasha’s friends, she concludes it by calling Barbie a fascist.
But in Barbie, Gerwig uses her characters outside of their monologues to embody different social issues. Including Hari Nef, a transgender actress and model, was one thing, but having her in a scene that calls out her beauty is a win for trans inclusion and representation in film. Additionally, that moment in the trailer where Barbie thinks about death is just the beginning. As she reconciles with feelings and existential thoughts in the real world, she comes across an elderly woman who she says is beautiful. The woman simply responds with, “I know,” and the two women share a genuine smile that brings attention to how society treats women and their body image as they age.
But I have to point out that Ferrera’s monologue is one of the film’s best parts. Towards the film’s third act, Ferrera gives an impassioned speech on the plight of being a woman and the double standards placed on them by patriarchy that not only sends a shock through the Barbies but will certainly rouse moviegoers as well. Speaking of patriarchy, Gosling’s Ken learns about patriarchy in the real world and comically employs it in Barbieland in a way that rightfully calls out the system and makes it the joke that it actually is. And yes, his “Kenergy” is more than “Kenough” for this film.
Of course, this film centers around Robbie, who was born to play Barbie. To be honest, we haven’t seen Barbie with this much depth before, and Robbie expertly portrays a narrative of what it means to be a woman and human. Sure, there are plenty of fantastical elements, and the film is fully aware of this in its very meta state. So much so that it’s like Barbie invites you in on all the jokes that the film is in on.
Can Barbie seemingly escape incarceration twice and waltz into a public school campus unannounced in our world? No, but in a fictionalized version of the real world, she can do anything and audiences are told, in so many words, to go with it. But when you go with Barbie, you can’t lose, and Gerwig’s film is a big win.