Saturday, January 13, 2024

REVIEW: Barbie

Under ordinary circumstances, the idea of a "Barbie" film would elicit dismissive groans from any discerning movie lover. But when it was announced that this big screen adaptation of the beloved doll would be helmed by the talented Greta Gerwig, it instantly became one of the hottest prospects of 2023. As it turns out, that excitement was warranted, as "Barbie" emerged as one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
"Barbie" stars Margot Robbie in the titular role as stereotypical Barbie, a conventionally pretty woman living the dream life in Barbieland. In her perfect world, the female Barbies sit atop the social hierachy while the male Kens engage in trivial pursuits and aim to please the female citizens. But this feminist fantasy will soon be turned upside down when an existential crisis corrupts Barbie's carefree worldview. And after consulting with the Weird Barbie, she learns that she is connected to a human owner in the real world, whose own depression and self-doubt is affecting her. Now, Barbie must journey to California alongside her besotted admirer Ken (a hilarious Ryan Gosling) to get her life back to normal. Little does she know, her experiences there will change her life forever.

Like a metaphor for the Garden of Eden story, the visual language of "Barbie" vividly conveys Barbie's fall from grace. Indeed, Barbieland is a wondrous creation, with bright colors, playful sets and costumes inspired by the long history of Barbie merchandise. In comparison, the real world indeed looks drab and corrupted.

That corruption seeps into the mind of Ken, who returns to Barbieland and establishes a patriarchy, setting in motion a psychological battle of the sexes as women seek to regain control. As this war is waged between the Barbies and Kens, the colorful setting proves to be the perfect playground for the film's campy delights. From endless sight gags, to infectious songs, to showstopping dance numbers, the script brilliantly leans into its silliness while still feeling intentional and meaningful. Specifically, it offers resonant social commentary on topics such as the pressures women face to be perfect, as well as men's competitive nature and penchant for war. 

It all leads to a poignant awakening for Barbie, who learns to embrace the pitfalls of being human and specifically, a woman. Gorgeously imaginative, inspiring and just plain fun, it's no wonder why "Barbie" was the movie event of the year. Just like her wonderful "Little Women" adaptation, Greta Gerwig once again proves that you can ineed bring an ingenious, fresh spin to some of our oldest IP.

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