BARBIE Offers Social Commentary Within a Lovable and Colorful Film

The history of the intellectual property of Barbie and all of its toy merchandise has, in recent decades, raised many conversations about women and their status in our world. While on the one hand, the Barbie lore elevates women and honors all they have to offer, the reality is our world spins very differently, as the societies on our planet are male-dominated. Writer/director Greta Gerwig and creative partner Noah Baumbach have developed a Barbie live-action movie that addresses this discrepancy and does so in some beautiful and intelligent ways. The Barbie movie not only delivers commentary on our world but also acknowledges the impact that the Barbie world has on it- both positive and negative.

That is not to say that this movie is weighty and sullen. This film is not a social satire that forgets that the Barbie property is all about young girls having fun and dreaming about a better tomorrow. Gerwig and Baumbach use their creative skills beautifully to celebrate what makes Barbie so iconic. However, they acknowledge how this earnest approach can feel false, given the truth about women in the real world.

Margot Robbie stars as Barbie. In her “Barbieland,” the various Barbies rule happily and giddily, as their existence is so simple, colorful, and fanciful, while their Ken counterparts enjoy relatively simple lives. Robbie’s character is labeled as “stereotypical Barbie,” a figure who, while seemingly the center of attention, does very little for her world except for hosting girl parties and trips to the beach. After repeating her days constantly, stereotypical Barbie begins to ponder if there is much more to life and starts having an existential crisis. With the help of the more seasoned and savvy “Weird Barbie” (Kate McKinnon), Barbie discovers that her existence is connected to a less colorful and very different world where Barbies and Kens are toys manufactured by the Mattel toy company.

As Barbie realizes that some aspects of this universe are affecting her in some negative ways, she decides to travel to the “real world” to solve her crisis. As he is in love with her and desires to win her heart, one particular Ken (Ryan Gosling) decides to join her and soon discovers a world where men have power. This realization changes Ken’s attitude toward Barbieland, and he decides to take action.

There is so much I can say about this movie. However, I do not wish to spoil any more of this beautiful experience. The Barbie movie could have been a straightforward children’s movie aimed at simple, silly fun. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have ensured that their film is much more than that. I don’t know if Gerwig ever played with Barbies as a child, but I am willing to bet she has. Through this movie, she expresses much love and admiration for this property but certainly delivers how this fantasy world juxtaposes with women’s experiences in our world.

The result is a movie that not only intelligently enlightens its audiences but also entertains with some of the most charming and lovable humor and heart ever presented in a film. As someone who has never played with Barbies but has relatives who did, I had a wonderful time experiencing this incredible film and all it has to offer. While acknowledging its thoughtful commentary, I still laughed often and regularly smiled at the delightful humor and heartfelt humanity this film embodies.

As far as the cast is concerned, everyone in this movie is outstanding. As the lead Barbie, Margot Robbie brings much sweet earnestness and vulnerability to her performance. She truly is a sweetheart like Barbie, but she also realizes the complexity of the character superbly. The real scene stealer, however, is Ryan Gosling, who uses his comedic chops to beautiful effect as the principal Ken. Gosling is a multi-faceted actor who can bring the goods to dramatic and comedic roles. He is an absolute joy to behold in this movie.

I would love to delve deeper into what makes this movie so phenomenal, but I refuse to spoil it any further. Barbie is one of the top movies of this year because of the intelligent creativity of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. They have taken what could have been a shallow exercise in children’s entertainment and turn it into so much more.

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