Greta Gerwig's “Barbie” is set to be the highlight of the summer movie season. This hyper-feminine roller-coaster ride takes audiences on an emotional journey, delving into the rocky transition from girlhood to womanhood. Gerwig's triumphant take on the iconic Barbie is a powerful celebration of femininity, acknowledging its complexities, joys, frustrations, limitations, and freedoms.
Barbieland: A World of Contradictions
Under Gerwig's direction, Barbies and Kens frolic beneath the sunlit skies of Barbieland, the dreamland Mattel has pedaled to children for generations. It's a picturesque dollhouse, drenched in all shades of pink, including salmon, rose, and millennial pink. However, beneath the surface of perfect appearances, lies an illusion of choice and uniform perfection.
Charming Optimism in a Doll Society
Each Barbie and Ken in Barbieland exudes childlike optimism, playing their roles with enthusiasm and charm. The ensemble cast, including Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, and Alexandra Shipp, adds unique distinctions to their characters, preventing Barbieland from becoming a monotonous realm of mindless clones. Ryan Gosling's portrayal of Ken, especially, stands out, turning a seemingly simple subplot into a poignant exploration of sexism and societal challenges.
Margot Robbie Shines as Barbie
Of course, the star of the show is Margot Robbie, perfectly cast as Barbie. Robbie's megawatt charisma flawlessly embodies the world's most famous doll. Her performance reflects a layer of naive optimism that gradually gives way to the realities of the Real World, a setting treated with utmost significance in the script. As Barbie uncovers new layers of self-consciousness, Robbie's portrayal tugs at the heartstrings, deserving of award attention for its awe-inspiring depth.
America Ferrera's Impactful Performance
America Ferrera delivers a flawless performance as Gloria, a Mattel employee living in the Real World. Ferrera's portrayal carries gravity, serving as the audience's point of view character. She reminds us that our mothers have experienced the complexities of womanhood before us, highlighting the enduring child within each of us as we navigate adulthood.
The Fantasy of Barbie in the Real World
“Barbie” creatively blends fantasy with reality, allowing the doll's world to seep into the Real World without stifling the fun. While the Real World is not without its challenges, the film maintains a playfulness that keeps audiences engaged. Even the fantastical “portal” between the two realms adds a comically childlike element accepted as natural in the movie.
A Celebration of Growth and Age
The film beautifully explores the theme of life cycles and age, exemplified when Barbie encounters an elderly woman at a bus stop. This stirring moment emphasizes the beauty of aging and living a life defined by experiences rather than mere accomplishments. Gerwig's portrayal of Barbie as eternally young yet wise beyond her years reminds viewers that both Barbie and society evolve and influence each other.
Critiquing Capitalist Feminism
Gerwig's power lies in her ability to use Barbie, an ageless icon of femininity, to question the limitations of capitalist feminism. While Barbie embodies professional excellence, the film challenges the idea that true liberation can be achieved solely through career success. It calls for deeper introspection into societal structures that perpetuate women's subjugation, urging us to look beyond surface-level representations of progress.
A Poignant Coming-of-Age Tale
As Barbie “matures” throughout the film, her journey is both captivating and emotional. The movie offers a profound glimpse into the transformation from girl to woman, celebrating moments of growth that extend beyond landing a successful career. For instance, Barbie's experience in accessing women's healthcare for the first time is portrayed as a significant milestone in her personal growth.
Barbie: A Nostalgic and Bittersweet Experience
In its love for a cultural cornerstone, “Barbie” reminds us of the safety we felt in childhood, which inevitably fades with time. The film prompts us to question the societal pressures of living without fears or regrets, encouraging us to embrace the unknown and find comfort in shared vulnerabilities.
The Verdict: A Masterful Exploration of Femininity
Greta Gerwig's “Barbie” is a masterclass in exploring femininity and the pursuit of perfection. With meticulous production design and a stellar cast, including Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and America Ferrera, the movie pays heartfelt homage to Barbie while unraveling deeper themes. It's a bold and pink addition to the cinematic coming-of-age genre that will leave you both delighted and moved. Don't forget to wear your pinkest outfit to the theatre, and be prepared to bring tissues along for this emotional ride.