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Barbie ★★★★



Director: Greta Gerwig 

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Fererra, Will Ferrell

Release: July 21, 2023

Do you guys ever think about dying? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a Barbie — who looks incredibly like Suicide Squad A-lister Margot Robbie — to join you on your descent into despair! For the low, low price of one extortionate cinema ticket, this Barbie will have an existential crisis, learn that crying a lot is actually okay, and even will teach you how to rollerblade if your heart is in the right place. It really is the deal of the summer… because Barbie, as we all know, is everywoman.

Except, she wasn’t always that way. That sentiment has largely been reserved for inspirational school speeches, and Chaka Khan’s discography, but Greta Gerwig’s glee-ridden hand on the tiller is able to shape life in plastic to being so far from fantastic that it is… well, exactly that. For many fans already anticipating the Barbie experience, understanding the storyline that awaits hasn’t been an easy plot to unfurl. In short, Robbie’s Barbie takes a trip to the real world to set things right after cracks begin to appear in the facade of her dream Barbieland life. 

Before viewers can dive into what essentially might be an expected “unexpected,” the visual detail of Gerwig’s eye is beyond immense. There’s a good reason why Architectural Digest felt a need to tour Barbie’s dream house, just as much as Airbnb saw fit to replicate it in Malibu. Every accessory every little girl in the last 40 years might have wanted to nag her parents for is there. This extends to an exceptional array of positively feminist Barbies and Kens, alongside a few familiar discontinued faces along the way. Stylistically, Barbie is flawless — in exactly the way Robbie’s version is hell-bent on being. What lies underneath is anything but, though the imperfections are desperately needed. 

In a way, Barbie is difficult to rate on an industry-specific scale of 1-5. The film is both so good that its style and legacy are bound to last a lifetime, yet falls into a self-aware mold that we certainly would have expected from the doll of tomorrow. It’s everything, nothing, and all that lies in between. A school of thought is likely to write Barbie off as woke feminist propaganda, lining dolls up to adhere to an invisible checklist that people have decided is necessary for the world of inclusion to be fair. Thankfully, the film does just that — and effortlessly so. Mattel should always have been the “That’s me” brand and is now getting its much-needed redemption in a swift 115-minute runtime. If it wasn’t for the PR campaign that clearly had no boundaries, some might say that this is the fastest a brand has gone from being zero to hero.

At the same time, Barbie’s journey is almost like a fable, falling into the rhythms of morality that morph into a fitting brand of white noise the more you consume it. Perhaps most surprisingly, Barbie is about Ken, and it’s here where the bulk of the interest lies. If Ryan Gosling hasn’t already proved himself to have comedic chops, his commitment to the bit of Ken-ergy is an absolutely astonishing feat. Single-handedly bringing the patriarchy to Barbieland, it’s Ken who is the vehicle that allows the film to parallel the real-life atrocities that Barbie has perfectly glossed over in her 70-year global reign. If you want something done well, get a woman to get a man to do it. 

After all, is spray-painted pink, Barbie is a weird little thing that needs more than one sitting to digest. It’s just as excellent as it is short-coming — and maybe we all need to let it exist in its self-aware bubble. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder, and thanks to Gerwig’s directorial flair, a killer narrator, and a never-ending list of dazzling performances, no one can argue that Barbie isn’t a live-action job done well. It just might have been better if there were more horses. 

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