July 18th, 2023




Writers Note: At this important moment in time, the writers (WGA) and actors (SAG) are on strike and film critic Leo Brady and whole-heartedly stand behind everyone striking. Every artist and creator that makes great television and cinema deserves a fair living wage.

First, it was announced that Greta Gerwig would be working on a new live-action Barbie movie. Then Margot Robbie was cast as the title character. Then it was revealed that on July 21st, 2023, the Barbie movie would be going up against Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and for the last few months cinema has been having a moment. It’s certainly needed as well. With the current strike and a constant craving for new movies to say something, Gerwig’s Barbie is making the most of its time. But ultimately it’s impossible to prepare anyone for what Barbie is. It’s a comedy, it’s a fantasy, has musical inspirations, superb commentary on gender roles, and the real-life struggles of being a woman in 2023. Above all of those things, Barbie is a beautiful bubble gum dream, turning everyone and everything into a wonderful Barbie world.

The setting is Barbieland, a magical pink-soaked place, where every woman there is named Barbie. Some are astronauts, some are Pulitzer prize winners, some are doctors, and one Barbie is the president of the United States. Then there is the stereotypical Barbie (Robbie), who is every bit of beauty, living in her dream house, with her heels always in a raised position, and truly loving her perfect existence. She’s also the only thing that Ken (Ryan Gosling) and many other Ken’s care about. They would do anything for Barbie but this is not exactly their world. This is a Barbie world. That is until one day this Barbie actually starts to think about dying. Something is off in the real world, making the existence of this Barbie troubled, so she goes on a trip to California, with Ken tagging along, in search of finding her real owner who is turning this Barbie’s world upside down.

At the onset, there is a lot to take in from the entire Barbie universe. It’s the type of movie you pause to study every frame. The screenplay, written by Noah Baumbach and Gerwig, is a perfect blend of comedy and making a statement, while the details become increasingly elaborate with every scene. Each new set design or costume change brings more magic for our eyes to behold. Pinks and neon yellows pop, while Babrie journeys along what looks like elaborate cardboard backdrops. And then you get into the cast of it all, where Robbie is undoubtedly the perfect fit for the title role, while it’s Gosling that steals the entire show. What’s sprinkled in is the phenomenal presence of America Ferrera, given a monologue that should be recited for years to come, Will Ferrell’s undeniably funny presence, and Simu Liu as Ken’s competitive adversary…Ken.

What Gerwig does as a director is truly deliver a complete package. Her previous films Little Women and Lady Bird were wonderful expressions of teenage coming-of-age, and passionate womanhood. Here she has found what seems to be an uncharted valley of cinema, making a movie with the corporate backing of Mattel, and still giving it her own feminist message about the shoes that women walk in. And yet, this isn’t some man-hating approach, but instead an eye-opening expression of how truly hard it is to be a woman. It becomes one long arch for our lead Barbie. Similar to Beau is Afraid in a way, it is the journey of a person, realizing they might not like what they find, but in turn, finding a way to discover her own sense of self.

It’s the underlying theme of finding your true self– both for Ken and Barbie– which shines brightly at the end. I will admit it was the second half of Barbie that feels more grounded, firmer in its message and pointed purpose. Gerwig displays that message in ways reminiscent of Singin’ in the Rain, The Truman Show, The Lego Movie, and The Young Girls of Rochefort all at once. Yet, it still has the power of Gerwig’s independent voice, not allowing the corporate side to blind her message. There is something truly wonderful about Barbie. Margot Robbie has never been better and Gosling will steal every bit of attention that the audience is giving. It all comes out perfectly in a film that gives a message to women, girls, mothers, and daughters, something this timeline can never have enough of. It’s a Barbie world. Life in plastic. It’s fantastic.



Written by: Leo Brady

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