Home Movie Reviews ‘Barbie’ – Review
‘Barbie’ – Review

‘Barbie’ – Review


Hey there Barbie, let’s go party! The pure pink neon dream of Barbie Land arrives in cinemas with 2023’s most anticipated film of the year, Barbie, thanks to the imagination of Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and a whole host of Barbies and Kens, and it’s without-a-doubt one of the funniest, sparkliest and smartest films I’ve ever seen.

After being expelled from the utopian Barbie Land for being less-than-perfect dolls, Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) go on a journey of self-discovery together to the real world.

For more than sixty-four years, Mattel’s Barbie has provided little girls with a heroine who showed that they could be anything they wanted to be. As an icon of femininity itself, Barbie inspires love and happiness in the minds of so many people, and now her story arrives on the big screen. And it’s everything. Filmmaker Greta Gerwig jumps into the plasticised world of primary colours, stylish fashions and beach party-dreamhouse fun and delivers audiences a cinematic feat that is both everything they would hope for and incredibly thought-provoking at the same time. With its self-aware narrative and fully rendered vision, Barbie is the story of one doll’s journey to discover self-love and the acceptance of who she is, and her story will touch your heart.

Gerwig’s vision for Barbie is enormous, and she takes the famed doll and her hapless boyfriend, Ken, on a massive voyage of self-discovery. This is a narrative that works on so many different levels, and Gerwig takes a focus that is not only celebratory of Barbie and the phenomenon that she is, but also dissects the manufactured illusion that surrounds her. A key source for the story, and Gerwig’s direction, is Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia, which accounted for the effects of societal pressures on teenage girls in the 1990s, and its text has a big impact on the direction of the story. This narrative is filled with unexpected surprises and smart thematic touch points which resonate with all of the audience, and Gerwig has crafted a film for everyone.

In a piece of perfect casting, Margot Robbie is Barbie. With her flowing platinum blonde hair, shapely figure, flawless smile, stylish wardrobe, cheerful and exuberant personality and sublime life in Barbie Land, she’s the doll with everything. She is everything. And that’s where it gets interesting. When her perfect life suddenly takes a not-so-perfect turn, we see this Barbie undertaking a mission to enter the ‘real world’ and come face to face with reality, and it leads into the most transformative arc for this iconic character.

Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie is her seminal performance. Initially shaped by ideas of beauty, fun and exuberance, it soon becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on for Barbie. And she’s in for a wake-up call in the real world. This narrative pushes Robbie in every direction, and her concentration and commitment to the character is flawless. We see the world through her eyes, and she offers the audience a reflection of our own reality that none of us is expecting. Robbie’s an actress with her finger on the pulse of what her audience wants, and she delivers an incredibly powerful presence as Barbie that will resonate with all who watch her.

He might be a 10, but he’s just a Ken, and Ryan Gosling is a piece of genius casting on behalf of Gerwig to bring this plasticised doll to life. As the egotistical, vain, narcissistic, and thoroughly idiotic Ken he excels. But even though he might be ‘perfect’, Gosling’s Ken is completely insecure, desperate and needy for Barbie’s love and attention, and Gosling’s performance is addicting to watch. Like Robbie’s Barbie, he goes on quite a journey in this story, and he sure brings the ‘kenergy’. He also shares a natural chemistry with Robbie, and their back-and-forth only adds to the energy and fun of the picture.

A key part of the joy of Barbie is its fully realised world-building, and there’s a whole host of Barbies and Kens that make up this picture. Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Sharon Rooney, and Dua Lipa bring a considerable level of energy as our Barbies, while Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans and Ncuti Gatwa make for plenty of fun as the Kens. Michael Cera acts as a touchpoint for normalcy as Allan, and then there’s Emerald Fennell as Midge. Poor Midge. Of vital importance to the film’s narrative is America Ferrera as Gloria, who serves as a reflection for the audience and whose sense of self as the ‘every woman’ leads to the film’s key revelation. All of these performers bring such jubilation to the film and make it that much more special.

As an experience, Barbie is a film with serious style and Gerwig and her production team fully embrace a sense of real ‘authentic artificiality’ that is mirrored in a sense of nostalgia and memory. Barbie is a film of contrasts, with the plasticised, almost Technicolor presence of Barbie Land, which finds its inspirations in the classic Americana of the 1950s, the French Riveria of the 1960s, and the pumped-up consumerism of the 1980s with our own world. Set designer Sarah Greenwood and decorator Katie Spencer have permission to dream with this picture, and what they realise is spell-bounding. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran’s work on the film is out of this world, and she takes inspiration from Barbie’s collected wardrobe and pairs it with unique Chanel pieces that express different ideas of femininity throughout the picture.

Barbie is a pure, dazzling party of delight, and the film’s music has a major influence on the audience’s interaction with the narrative. Gerwig and producer Mark Ronson bring together a ‘guilty pleasure’ mix of fun and sound in the music of Barbie and artists including Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice with Aqua, Charli XCX, Karol G and Aldo Ranks, Sam Smith, Tame Impala, Haim and Billie Eilish bring their unique talents to a fabulous soundtrack. The music of Barbie is a unique character within the film, and you’ll be grooving in your seat with this funky jukebox of hits.

With its clever narrative, fun characters, stylish costumes and a production filled with every shade of pink imaginable, Barbie has everything that audiences could want. But within its story is a deep and layered thematic story that examines the very idea of womanhood itself. Gerwig balances the light, energy and whimsy of Barbie with her beach days, girls’ nights and dance parties with a serious exploration of the female self and spirit. This film offers a touching exploration of femininity in today’s age, and Barbie’s place within it, and audiences will find themselves extremely moved by it.

Barbie is a cinematic experience of pure happiness and joy that will get audiences dancing in their seats. You can’t help but embrace the enchantment of this magical movie experience, so grab your girlfriends and maybe a Ken or two, and head along for the best day out at the movies EVER!

Image: Warner Brothers Pictures