Barbie Film Review: Is Life In Plastic Fantastic?

Barbie Movie Review

Runtime: 114mins | Director: Greta Gerwig | Rating: 4 Stars

You’ve likely seen Barbie already, are planning to, or perhaps even celebrated OppenBarbie - the most anticipated day of cinema in recent history. In fact, Barbie had the biggest opening weekend ever by a female director, and combined with Oppenheimer, the biggest opening weekend since Avengers: Endgame. Either way, it can’t be denied that Barbie is taking the world by storm. 

So, what’s all the fuss about? 
In the near two-hour outing, Gerwig tells the story of Barbie and Ken who are living seemingly perfect lives in Barbie Land. When Barbie starts having uncharacteristically negative thoughts though, she is tasked with visiting the real world to resolve them. Upon arrival, Barbie and Ken soon discover the wonders and pitfalls of living amongst humans and their ensuing complexities. 
As I sit here typing, nodding my head to Dance The Night on repeat, the infectious lead single from Barbie’s soundtrack, I’m struck by just how much fun it was. Both Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were born to play their respective roles, and it’s clear how much fun they had doing so - particularly Gosling, who stole the show with his innate Kenergy. 

Barbie Movie Review

The Costume and Stage Design excelled too, transporting the audience to Barbie Land through varying degrees of pink and a resurgence in Barbiecore. Both departments will clean up during Award Season, and rightly so. 
Despite the wins above though, Barbie didn’t quite meet my high expectations which had been steadily increasing over 4 years of impatient anticipation. In fact, this was probably my least favourite Greta Gerwig film. However, this is more a testament to her previous outings, than the snub it first appears.
The reason I liked Barbie least was due to the very fact it wasn’t Gerwig (K)enough for me. There wasn’t the same quiet, deeply intimate beauty of Little Women, or the often awkward, yet unflinching honesty of Lady Bird. Instead, amongst the incredibly on-the-nose product placement, we got a glorified commercial for Barbie which without a shadow of a doubt had every single joke, jibe and feminist line uttered signed off by a real-life Mattel board. For me, that undermined the overarching message. As others have suggested, this is actually a pro-capitalist movie masking as an anti-capitalist one. Don’t forget that.

Barbie Movie Review

Towards the end of the film, Barbie also became too existential for my liking. Given the infectiously upbeat tone of the rest of the film, this felt a jarring way to end. Whilst I understand what Gerwig was going for, I can’t help but feel her reach didn’t exceed her grasp on this occasion, which was a shame.
In terms of the overarching feminist message, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on this - some positive, a lot negative. Personally, I don’t feel this is for me to comment on. However, I will say, the OpppenBarbie phenomena allowed for an interesting comparison… 
Ironically, given both films at their very core critique men determining what happens in the world with often terrible consequences, why is Barbie the only one of the two being actively protested and attacked? Something to think upon. 

Barbie Movie Review

In summary, Barbie was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. People were dressed up, laughing out loud, cheering, and generally having an incredible amount of fun. It was also a pleasure watching both leads having the time of their lives on-screen, embracing Barbie to the max.  The supporting teams will do very well in Awards Season too. Despite this, I’d have liked Gerwig’s voice to have been more present, rather than Mattel’s. After all, Gerwig is everything - they’re just Mattel.

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