After months of non-stop promotion, the long-awaited Barbie movie is finally here. The film based on the famous doll has been in development for years but finally took off when director Greta Gerwig came on board, along with Margot Robbie who would both produce the film and star in the titular role. And, from the moment the film's first still was released, the internet collectively realized something special was in store and the anticipation had begun. Each subsequent trailer and poster only built up Barbie's unstoppable momentum. Could it possibly live up to the impossibly high expectations and rise to meet this pop cultural moment?
Barbie begins with a brief history of the doll before being whisked off to the whimsical world of Barbieland, where she and all her plastic friends (along with their disposable love interests,) are living their best lives. Barbieland is a female utopia, where each day is perfect and magical. The Barbies rest easy knowing they've inspired countless girls to chase their dreams and become anything they want to be. Everything changes for Barbie (Margot Robbie) when she's plagued with thoughts of death and finds herself facing an existential crisis. Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) informs her that she must travel to the real world to find the answers to her questions. On her way, she discovers her Ken (Ryan Gosling) has stowed away to provide her some moral support on her journey. Soon, they'll both discover the real world is far different than the only reality they've known.
Barbie has so much going for it. For starters, its two leads Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are perfectly cast and give some of the funnest and funniest performances of their careers. Robbie's role is a bit more nuanced and tender, while Gosling can't help but steal the show with his effortless Ken-ergy. In supporting roles, Kate McKinnon is used in just the right amount of doses, meanwhile, more Michael Cera and America Ferrerra would have been welcome. Gerwig undeniably has a vision for this Barbie world and hired some truly talented artists to bring it to life. The production design, costumes, hair, and makeup in this film are all absolutely impeccable. So much care was put into every detail and it's truly impressive the world that Gerwig and her team crafted.
As for the subject matter, Gerwig's film is incredibly ambitious, and as such, the film often bites off more than it can chew. Barbie has a lot of ground it attempts to cover, some of which is done more successfully than others. Barbie always manages to be funny, but can't help but be a bit heavy-handed while delivering its message in the final act. Gerwig attempts to bring it all together in the end but doesn't completely stick the landing. Still, I love a lot of what she's trying to say about the crushing expectations society places on each gender. America Ferrera sums it all up with her show-stopping monologue near the end. I only wish the character could have been given more depth to truly give the moment the weight it deserves.
Those issues aside, I do consider Barbie to be a triumph. While it is indeed based on existing IP, it still manages to feel wholly original-- a product carefully packaged to the world through the hands of an auteur. Plus, it is wonderful seeing a movie that is so unapologetically feminine, be poised to achieve so much success. Barbie is both a win for cinema and a win for women and I hope Hollywood is paying attention. Women are a valuable audience, and we want and yearn for originality.