She's everything. He's just Ken.
Barbie is a 2023 fantasy comedy drama film directed by Greta Gerwig, written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, produced by Heyday Films, LuckyChap Entertainment, NB/GG Pictures, and Mattel Films, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film is based on the Mattel fashion doll of the same name. It stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
"It's the best day ever. So was yesterday, and so is tomorrow, and every day from now until forever!" - Barbie
When a Barbie doll starts acting up, she must venture out into the real world to discover the cause of her malfunction...and the truth about Barbies and the actual world alongside that.
Barbie was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer movie season. I was never particularly looking forward to this film, but once the reviews started coming out, my excitement shot up.
One of the coolest things about Barbie has to be the world they were able to build here. A lot of the film is set in the actual Barbie Land, which allows for us to see some of the best and most clever production design I have ever seen. Besides the actors, everything is literally like a Barbie playset come to life. The things that are plastic in real life are also plastic in the Barbie world. The things that don't exist in real life also don't exist in the Barbie world. It just adds this underlying element of wonder that you don't often get in movies today, because a lot of times, sets are CGI and green screen. Here, there are practical, beautiful sets and props that make the movie a lot of fun.
I think this movie also portrays a very clever usage of the idea of the Barbie doll and what it represents. Greta Gerwig films often have a feminist idea driving the main plot, and here, Gerwig deconstructs the Barbie doll and its effect on the ideas of what women should and shouldn't be. It's a really smart way to utilize something so mainstream and popular and make it a fitting metaphor for women's rights and the inequality they have faced throughout history.
I also think this movie really does a great job of balancing the line between satire and drama. Barbie is a very rich satire. It exaggerates a lot of things. Every single man in this movie is a misogynistic douchebag with no brain. The real world is not as terrible and sexist as the one portrayed in this movie. But it uses this satirical version of the real world to tackle some interesting themes and sadder, more dramatic ideas through this comedic lens. I think this screenplay is flawed, but balancing the line between the type of comedy this is going for and the type of social commentary its going for is very difficult, and I feel that Barbie mostly pulled it off.
Speaking of satire, this movie is incredibly funny. Some people have been saying it's constant laugh-out-loud humor, and, while I do not agree with that, I think that this is a really witty film that has some really unexpected comedic moments. The movie is very self-aware and almost meta at times, but it doesn't rely on that as its main gag. It throws those elements in when you least expect, so they are really funny, but the main source of comedy is Ryan Gosling's Ken and the other Kens in this movie. Gosling really gets a chance to flex his comedic muscles here, and flex them he does (if you've seen the movie, that has a double meaning). There are also some other moments in here that I won't spoil, but they are very funny.
I am currently at a five-week film program at Northwestern University, and, since everyone here is a film buff, a bunch of us went to see Barbie together. I talked with a bunch of my friends (guys and girls alike) and got some very different and very interesting opinions that have definitely influenced my thoughts on the movie as a whole.
Let me make this clear: I am a seventeen-year-old guy. I am not a girl. I will never experience what women have to go through in life. So I cannot relate to a lot of the problems discussed in this movie. I can sympathize with these problems, but I can't relate to them, so I want you as the reader to understand my perspective on these things.
I think Barbie was too preachy. Once again, I'm a guy, so my experience will be different than a girl's would be. But I think that this film starts off with a really strong metaphor that is being explored through subtext and subtlety...until it isn't. In the second half of the movie, America Ferrara's character has a monologue where she just explains all of the problems that women face. I think that that undercuts the power of the metaphor and makes your movie sound more like a character trying to teach the audience a lesson than it does actual social commentary.
While talking about this movie, one of my friends (shoutout Sadie) made a very good point. She said that Barbie felt like it didn't want to make anyone mad. It leans into the social commentary but never really dives deep into it, because if it does, then it will be controversial and people will be mad. It wants to make sure it doesn't alienate men too much, so the men get an ending that makes them happy. As unique and creative as this movie is, it feels like it didn't really take risks when it came to the social commentary.
On a story and structure level, Barbie is also kind of a mess. In typical film structure, the second act of your movie should be the longest. In Barbie, it feels like the second act is the shortest. It can clearly be broken up into three segments: introduction to Barbie Land, into the real world, and back to Barbie Land. The real world stuff is the shortest part of the movie. It almost feels like you're fast-forwarding through it. Will Ferrell portrays the CEO of Mattel, and he's not really given anything to do. The movie spends a little bit too much time focusing on Ken just being an idiot. It never really does a good job of balancing all of its various plotlines, which can make it feel very uneven when watching it.
Final Thoughts and Score
Barbie is a fun, creative ride that has some good social commentary. It gets a bit too preachy at times and the film overall is a mess, but most people with have a good time with this film.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 12+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 8/10
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, language, thematic elements
Released on July 21, 2023
1 hour and 54 minutes
Margot Robbie as Barbie
Ryan Gosling as Ken
America Ferrara as Gloria
Ariana Greenblatt as Sasha
Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel
Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie
Issa Rae as President Barbie
Alexandra Shipp as Writer Barbie
Emma Mackey as Physicist Barbie
Hari Nef as Dr. Barbie
Sharon Rooney as Lawyer Barbie
Ana Cruz Kayne as Judge Barbie
Ritu Arya as Journalist Barbie
Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie
Nicola Coughlin as Diplomat Barbie
Simu Liu as Tourist Ken
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Basketball Ken
Scott Evans as Stereotypical Ken
Ncuti Gatwa as Artist Ken
John Cena as Kenmaid
Rhea Pearlman as Ruth Handler
Helen Mirren as The Narrator
Michael Cera as Allan
Connor Swindells as Aaron Dinkins