Greta Gerwig continues a brilliant run behind the camera with Barbie while co-writing a hysterical script with Noah Baumbach.
Gerwig and Baumbach’s script is funnier than it has any right to be. It’s also full of double entendres but it does have a PG-13 rating for suggestive references and brief language. One would assume that many parents would want to bring their young daughters under 10 but that might not be the best idea. After watching the film, I expect that it’s going to make tons of dollars at the box office despite the best efforts of conservatives waging war against the film. Let trans people exist for Pete’s sake! Fragile men seem to have problems with films driving home themes of feminism and smashing the patriarchy. That’s all I’m going to say about their fragility and some of the hate campaigns that are coming with the film’s release.
Since transitioning from writer-actress to director, Gerwig has been delivering home run after home run. Barbie gives the filmmaker her biggest studio film to date with the Mattel adaptation. Having not watched the trailer going into the film, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found myself laughing hysterically throughout the nearly two-hour run time. There is no mid- or end credits scene for those of you who are wondering. Anyway, Gerwig and Baumbach’s script injects feminism, patriarchy, and an existential crisis as Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) make their way from Barbie Land to the real world, where the Mattel CEO (Will Ferrell) is not happy with their crossing over. It’s in the real world where Stereotypical Barbie meets Ruth (Rhea Perlman), Gloria (America Ferrara), and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt). The transition opens their eyes to reality and how the two worlds differ.
I’m not going to get into the rest of the plot but I can’t get enough of just how funny the script is. The script takes chances in some places and it absolutely pays off in the end. You won’t get any spoilers from me on that front. Even during scenes that are outrageously funny, Margot Robbie–who is very funny in this film and needs to star in comedies more often–finds a way to ground performance in reality. If you’re expecting a family-friendly movie that you can bring younger children to the theater, prepare to be disappointed to some extent. Hell, one of the songs in the soundtrack features “bitch” in the lyrics. Again, this film does have a PG-13 rating.
Interestingly, The Truman Show plays a role in inspiring the film’s lighting when audiences are watching Barbie Land. All of that is built up on a soundstage in a nice throwback to the 1950s. That’s not the only throwback to Hollywod’s Golden Age because there is also dance choreography straight out of Busby Berkeley’s Gold Diggers. It isn’t until Barbie and Ken make their way to Los Angeles before we see the real world. There’s some astonishing design work here, including a scenic panorama in the Mattel boardroom. Look closely, you’ll see the Warner Bros. Discovery building.
It is certainly not an understatement to say how much pink there is in the movie. I think that the costume and production design will be one of the Oscar frontrunners. Ryan Gosling should be one of the top contenders for Best Supporting Actor. His La La Land work pays off because the actor gets a few song and dance numbers, too. He is Kenough indeed. Speaking of Ken, if you’ve been watching Secret Invasion, prepare to see another side of Kingsley Ben-Adir. It really speaks to his range as an actor with his performance of a different Ken. But of course, this film is not what it is without Margot Robbie–who acquired the film rights and reached out to Gerwig–and a brilliant cast of actors bringing Gerwig and Baumbach’s script to life on the screen. Helen Mirren’s narration reaches meta levels in ways that I can’t describe without spoilers.
Barbie is one of the best pictures of the year but it’s not surprising when one takes a look at the talent behind and in front of the camera. Without them, everything that people enjoy about the film would not exist and it’s why they deserve fair compensation for their work.
DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig
SCREENWRITERS: Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach
CAST: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Simu Liu, Rhea Perlman, with Helen Mirren and Will Ferrell, Ariana Greenblatt, Ana Cruz Kayne, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Scott Evans, Jamie Demetriou, Connor Swindells, Sharon Rooney, Nicola Coughlan, Ritu Arya, Dua Lipa
Warner Bros. will release Barbie in theaters on July 21, 2023. Grade: 5/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.