Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Greta Gerwig’s latest is an audacious, entertaining masterpiece the hits some strong emotional notes.
Life in Barbieland has always been a joy for Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie at her best). Nothing ever goes wrong…well until now. First, she thinks about dying. Then she awakes with bad breath. And then the worst of all happens…she gets flat feet! When she confesses these ‘defects’ to her fellow Barbies they tell her she must visit Weird Barbie (an outstanding Kate McKinnon). Weird Barbie tells Stereotypical Barbie that in order to fix these ‘defects’ she must travel to the Real World and meet the child who owns her. Barbie intends to make this journey solo, but her Ken (a commanding Ryan Gosling) begs her to join. She gives in and the two make their journey to Los Angeles.
Gerwig and Co-writer Noah Baumbach’s Script is an examination of Feminism and patriarchy in an exceptionally entertaining, funny and heartwarming Film. Barbieland is a place where women hold power. They even hold all positions in the Supreme Court. All the Barbies in this Feminist utopia believe they’ve solved Feminism for real-world girls. So, when Barbie and Ken arrive in Los Angeles, they’re shocked — in very different ways — to see that men hold the positions of power.
Barbie’s hurt and confused when she learns the entire board of Mattel are male. And she immediately feels self-conscious when all the men stare and cat-call at her. While Ken finds it thrilling that all the men in Century City are in positions of power and authority. Additionally, he is ecstatic that a woman asked him for the time. In Barbieland, the Kens only exist because of the Barbies. They don’t even have their own Dreamhouses. Gosling gives a comedic career-best performance as the main Ken. We feel for Ken because he believes no one cares for him…not even Barbie. His naive mind sees patriarchy as a way to gain autonomy in a world ruled by females.
However, the idea of patriarchy which Barbie and Ken discover in the Real World, is toxic. America Ferrara (a standout of this huge Cast) who plays Gloria, the woman who caused Barbie’s defects, delivers one of the most emotionally-impactful monologues of the decade about what it’s like to be a woman. The examination of Feminism and patriarchy leads to one answer: that Feminism simply means equality.
Barbie goes beyond those big world themes and examines the inner turmoil the external world inflicts on its characters. Barbie and Ken are both facing existential crises. They both want to understand, accept and love themselves for who they are as individuals as their world changes. Robbie shines throughout this odyssey and she’s brightest in these moments of internal reflection.
Gerwig and Baumbach don’t put all the focus on the beloved Barbie models. They include unpopular, rare and even discontinued toys. This makes for many riotous moments, such as Pregnant Barbie (Emerald Fennell) and a toy dog that poops. But the longest-running gag features Ken’s best bud Allan (Michael Cera). Cera brings this one-model doll to life with heart and comedic timing in a way only he can.
Barbie is an outstanding achievement at every turn. Gerwig’s vision is meticulous and unparalleled. It’s a Comedy-Drama with Musical flashes throughout and a measured, effective use of old Hollywood Slapstick. The Soundtrack is a hit and features some of today’s most beloved Artists. Additionally, it features a smash hit for Gosling’s Ken titled “I’m Just Ken”. The Set and Costume Design are jaw-dropping. You literally feel like you’re inside the Barbie Dreamhouse. With every Dreamhouse add-on, item and decoration accounted for.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release BARBIE in cinemas Friday, July 21, 2023.