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Film Review: Barbie (2023)

Kelaru & Fulton rating: ★★★★★

Available to rent on Prime Video | Runtime: 1hr 54mins


I understand the reasons behind the widespread appreciation for this film. It

operates on multiple levels, marking its significance within the cultural landscape. Notably, it deviates from the typical consumerism-driven adaptations (for example the Transformers series) opting for a daring approach to transform a stereotypical doll into one that defies stereotypes.

What surprises me even more is that the film received approval for its bold satire, frequently mocking the symbolic representation of the doll. Given that Mattel, the toy's manufacturers, typically prioritise toy sales, one would expect them to advise director Greta Gerwig to temper such bold commentary. Yet, this expectation is not realised in the film.

Greta Gerwig, instead of succumbing to the allure of plastic perfection, embraces witty satire without falling into the pitfalls of creating an overtly agenda-driven film. The film possesses a heart and soul that elevates its impact.

The linchpin of this success is the meticulously crafted script, a collaborative effort between Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. For instance, the narrative unfolds predominantly in Barbieland, a vibrant pink realm inhabited by various incarnations of Barbie, including Judge Barbie, President Barbie, Journalist Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Weird Barbie, and more. The toys' existence in Barbieland mirrors how real children engage with Barbie dolls, and as long as everything remains well in the real world, Barbieland flourishes. The fantasy perpetuated by Barbieland is that the dolls serve as inspirational figures in the real world. However, the film explores the consequences when the dolls lose their adoration.

The central figure in this world is Stereotypical Barbie, portrayed by Margot Robbie, who holds a revered status due to being the original Barbie. The film takes a poignant turn when Stereotypical Barbie discovers an imperfection (behold, flat feet!) challenging her pursuit of perfection. This event catalyses a journey into the real world, where Barbie aims to understand why her child companion is dissatisfied, leading to her own self-discovery.

Another standout character is Ken, played masterfully by Ryan Gosling, who accompanies Barbie into the real world only to find out what ‘real’ men are like. He is inspired by the behaviour of real men and decides to take these ideas back to Barbieland where, unexpectedly, they become very popular among all the other Kens.

The brilliance of the writing filters through the dialogue, musical elements, and visual aesthetics of the film. However, it is when Barbie and Ken venture into the real world that the film truly comes into its own. The realisation that the real world is imperfect, and that toys play a role in shaping it, deeply affects Barbie, prompting her to question her identity and self-worth. Meanwhile, Ken returns to Barbieland with newfound ideas about patriarchy and male dominance, causing a ripple effect in the glittering, pink perfect doll world.

What unfolds is a comedic satire infused with heart—a rarity in contemporary cinemas. With top-tier writing, acting, and production values, it's no surprise that this film achieved box office success. Unlike CGI-laden action spectacles, its triumph stems from a compelling narrative with a profound message, meticulously crafted and seamlessly executed.

Greta Gerwig's direction elevates this film beyond categorisation. It challenges norms with its unconventional aesthetics and message, establishing her as a director of complexity and skill. Through her lens, a seemingly banal pink toy transforms into a meaningful concept that transcends its initial trappings, leaving an enduring impact for generations to come.



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