BY DANNY TULL
Going into “Barbie,” I wasn’t sure what it was going to be about. Besides the main character being the iconic Mattel doll, it wasn’t very clear from the trailer what the overall story of the film would be. This confusion lingered even as I sat in the dimly lit theater and munched on my popcorn.
The “Barbie ” movie focuses on the film’s protagonist, “Stereotypical Barbie” (Margot Robbie) and her friend Ken (Ryan Gosling). Their experiences of depression, fear of death, self-doubt and not having a sense of purpose for the first time are encapsulated by the film in a thought-provoking way. The writers managed to infuse each character with heaps of fun in what I thought was going to be another 2023 cash-grab film.” The film also provides a great perspective on the human experience, what it means to be a woman and the negative impacts an unstable patriarchy can have. With the help of her “child” Gloria (America Ferreira) and Gloria’s daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), Barbie discovers the meaning of being human.
From the start, the writers introduce the concept of individuality within Barbie Land, with there being a diversity of Barbies all with various interests and backgrounds. There is also a progressive concept of feminism where women do not depend on men for success. However, the Kens of this world live in the Barbies’ shadows. This is unlike the real world, where women and other minority groups often have to fight to stand on their own in opposition to men.
In this sense, the Barbies and Kens switch gender disparity roles. However, much like the real world, the gender benefitting the most is oblivious to the inequality imposed on others. Through the course of the film, the Barbies learn to rectify this problem. The film teaches how to establish equity and end toxic codependency while learning to be your own person. Though the film proposes solving this problem by separating Ken and Barbie, I believe listening and understanding concerns from others different from yourself would help us grow as people.
As deep as the film is, there is still a lot of enjoyment that comes with the relevant social commentary. The entire cast is experienced in dramatic and comedic acting, so they help lighten the mood in the more heartbreaking parts of the film. Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell, Michael Cera and Helen Mirren are some of the actors who make up the scene-stealing supporting cast. They are known for their emotionally compelling and hilarious characters. It makes sense why they were casted to tell this multi-layered story.
Between dancing at a disco-themed party at Barbie’s Dream House and staging a hostile takeover of Barbie Land’s Supreme Court, the cast delivered several absurd, yet comical moments. A particularly memorable scene was when the Barbies were trying to distract all the Kens, causing a musical civil war between the two Ken factions. The two main Kens (Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu) stole the show in these scenes, turning them from pink to comedy gold.
Robbie brought a relatable uncertainty and resistance to change that many of us face when growing up. She is completely oblivious to the fact that not everyone adores Barbie and that it’s okay to not be perfect. Within that awkwardness is where we get most of Robbie’s comedy.
The sets of the movie were imaginative, recreating the Barbie Dreamhouses in the Barbie Land scenes. The rest of the movie takes place in the “Real World.” Greta Gerwig and her team did a fantastic job bringing to life the plastic and fantastic Barbie Land. Margot Robbie even gives a tour of the giant neighborhood of Barbie Dreamhouses online. Seeing the larger-than-life Dreamhouses in the movie took me back to when my sister made me play Barbies with her.
The movie’s fanbase also elevated the experience for me, personally. Both on social media and in the theater, people prepared to watch this film in classic Barbie fashion by wearing pink. At the theater I went to, everyone was dressed head-to-toe in pink and blonde wigs — anything remotely reminiscent of Barbie. Others wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts to capture the essence of Ken. It was cold, so I wore a blue flannel, pink shorts, and khakis. On TikTok, creators made giant replicas of Barbie boxes and put them in the theater lobbies so that the audience could take pictures in it.
It turned out, the Barbie movie was a fun and enlightening journey of being human, which I really enjoyed. With both Gerwig’s film being released in theaters on the same day as Hollywood’s veteran director Christoper Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the #The Barbenheimer trend was brought to life, with both films benefitting from the marketing. However, “Barbie” ended up passing “Oppenheimer” in box office sales. The world’s favorite versatile doll greatly surpassed the fatal physicist $162 million to $82 million its first weekend.
“Barbie” was really a surprise. The film has taken the world by storm, and I don’t think any of us realized how big of an impact it was going to make. A decent amount of people that I’ve asked about the film said they came out of the theater with a different way of thinking. Whether they enjoyed it or not is a different story, but at least they were talking about it.
The film’s writers utilized “Barbie” as an opportunity to tell a deeper story about women’s adversities and the human condition. Margot Robbie’s acting range, comedic timing and ability to portray a doll’s journey of self-discovery in a way that makes her feel real. Watching “Barbie” felt more like experiencing your friend go through a major life change, but not being able to help them. It kind of hurt not gonna lie, especially at the end. I’m still amazed at the hard work on screen and behind the scenes that went into bringing this production to life. My score for the film is a solid 9/10. It may not be a perfect film, but it was a perfectly fun time.