Warning: Spoilers ahead
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY JAAP BUITENDIJK/WARNER BROS
It’s 7:15pm on 21 July. I’ve just picked up my friend from hers and we’re both wearing our pretty in pink outfits, ready to watch Greta Gerwig’s latest film, Barbie. As we make our way through town to the cinema, it’s already clear that this is a defining moment in pop culture history. Swathes of people are dressed in every shade of pink, sequins and glitter. As we meet the rest of our group and make our way into the building, the colourful array of excited people only intensifies and even the staff is dressed in pink. We take our seats and it is soon made very clear to me that this film is going to go above and beyond my sky-high expectations.
This is Greta’s fourth directorial feature and it’s camp, feminist, hilarious and surprisingly moving. And (somehow) the film received Mattel’s blessing which allowed this film which offers a nuanced look at the titular doll’s impact and legacy as well as gender, existentialism and consumerism.
From start to end, this was a film full of surprises. We follow Margot Robbie’s “Stereotypical Barbie” as she goes from waking up in Barbie Land – a place where women can be and do anything, where they are celebrated, successful and empowered – to finding herself thinking about dying and her tiptoed feet horrifyingly become flat.
The star-studded cast is full of openly LGBTQIA celebs and queer icons. And Margot’s Barbie finds herself trekking to “Weird Barbie’s” home (played by gay trailblazer, Kate McKinnon) to find out how to remedy her identity crisis. Kate’s Barbie informs her that she has to set off to the real word and find the girl who is playing with her in order to cure herself.
En route to the real world, blasting Indigo Girls in her pink car, she discovers Ken (Ryan Gosling) has secretly joined her for the ride. Once they arrive in the real world, Barbie is horrified to immediately experience misogyny and objectification and the female agency of Barbie Land isn’t celebrated here. Whereas Ken discovers the patriarchy which leads to devastating consequences both in the human world and Barbie Land.
While Ryan is receiving well deserved praise for his portrayal of Ken, for me, it was Margot’s and America Ferrera’s performances as Barbie and Gloria, the latter who turns out to be the grown human woman is is responsible for Barbie’s existential crisis – which made the film as impactful as it was for me. While Ryan’s Ken provided plenty of ab-building laughter and commentary on gender roles, Gloria provided a signature Greta Gerwig monologue on the female experience that is sure to strike a chord with many. However, in the third act, it was Margot’s big moment that surprised me the most. Here I was welling up in a cinema at the Barbie movie, feeling grateful for the versatile and messy emotions and experiences that come with being a human: love, heartbreak, grief, rage, pain, joy, contentment and beyond. This was just one of the many ways this film took me by surprise, I can’t wait to watch it for a second, third and 100th time.
If you’d like to learn more about the making of the film, check out our August issue and check out our interview with Barbie’s Alexandra Shipp. This interview took place before the SAG-AFTRA strikes.
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