Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a cinematic marvel that’s as delightfully enchanting as it is shockingly earnest. For a movie about a ton of perfect plastic dolls, Barbie gets far deeper than most audiences can imagine and takes you on a fantastical feminist journey that mirrors an all-too-real life that we’re all familiar with. Tackling issues of feminism, patriarchy, and the very idea of what a perfect women should be, Gerwig and her longtime writing collaborator/husband Noah Baumbach weave many sneaky reflections of our real world within this “perfect” Barbieland world. While some jokes are more obvious and on the nose about the roles women have played in our society, others are incredibly layered and elicit a ton of laughter before the audience completely gets parallel. There are several times where the biggest laughter from the film is followed by solemn sighs and acknowledgements of the world we live in and just how male-dominated it has been.
That’s neither a statement condemning or praising the reality of the world we live in, but it can’t be debated that men have long held a larger foothold in almost every area of business and power, while women and people of color were often kept on the side and were unable to work the jobs that only men did (unfortunately it’s only been barely a century since women were “granted” the right to vote). That’s also not to say that women didn’t play many integral roles in our country and world’s history, creating and caring for children and families and giving all of themselves to keep their loved ones alive and fed. Any way you slice it, men still control most of the power in this country and world and Barbieland was a refreshing look at a place where women oversaw those same roles.
There’s an abundance of pink and kindness overflowing from the homes of all the different Barbie’s as they live their idyllic perfect days repeatedly. When Margot Robbie’s “Stereotypical Barbie” begins feeling thoughts of sadness and fear of death, everyone knows she must be malfunctioning, and she must visit the real world to fix things. With Ryan Golsing’s Ken by her side and his inability to live without her acknowledgment, the two encounter the reality of our male dominated world which has drastic effects on both life-size dolls. You see, in Barbieland the Ken’s are just that, Ken. They’re only defined by their role as Barbie’s companion and for their good looks. Outside of that, they just wait around for a chance to be noticed by Barbie in hopes that she might want to spend time with them, instead of the girls. If you see where that’s going, then it means you’re in on the joke and Barbie becomes even more enjoyable when it leans on the sincerity of Robbie and the frustrated humor of Gosling.
Coming out of left field to steal this whole movie, however, was America Ferrera who absolutely commands the screen when she’s on it and who delivers some of the most honest and frustratingly real facts about the standards that women are held to. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the emotional depth of script and how they pulled off honest discussions about gender roles and being viewed as a person, while still making it incredibly playful and fun. I can’t wait to go see this film a second time and probably even a third. Greta Gerwig created lighting in a bottle with this meta take on a toy doll which nearly everyone has some opinion of, making this the perfect film for everyone to see and discuss.
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