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REVIEW – ‘Barbie’ Proves There’s Depth Beyond the Plastic

BAR TT2 006 min

Barbie is a film that anyone can watch. Kids can have a lot of fun enjoying the beloved toy line brought to life, while adults can laugh at some mature jokes that younger audiences won’t get, and appreciate the social commentary that’s layered throughout. The movie is about life. The nuance that is crafted into the story of this film is a very welcome surprise that creates a fulfilling moviegoing experience. There is also a diverse cast of Barbies and Kens, which is great to see from an inclusion standpoint. 

Barbie premieres in theaters July 21, 2023.

Official Synopsis

To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.

From Oscar-nominated writer/director Greta Gerwig (“Little Women,” “Lady Bird”) comes “Barbie,” starring Oscar-nominees Margot Robbie (“Bombshell,” “I, Tonya”) and Ryan Gosling (“La La Land,” “Half Nelson”) as Barbie and Ken, alongside America Ferrera (“End of Watch,” the “How to Train Your Dragon” films), Kate McKinnon (“Bombshell,” “Yesterday”), Michael Cera (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Juno”), Ariana Greenblatt (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “65”), Issa Rae (“The Photograph,” “Insecure”), Rhea Perlman (“I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “Matilda”), and Will Ferrell (the “Anchorman” films, “Talladega Nights”). The film also stars Ana Cruz Kayne (“Little Women”), Emma Mackey (“Emily,” “Sex Education”), Hari Nef (“Assassination Nation,” “Transparent”), Alexandra Shipp (the “X-Men” films), Kingsley Ben-Adir (“One Night in Miami,” “Peaky Blinders”), Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”), Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”), Scott Evans (“Grace and Frankie”), Jamie Demetriou (“Cruella”), Connor Swindells (“Sex Education,” “Emma.”), Sharon Rooney (“Dumbo,” “Jerk”), Nicola Coughlan (“Bridgerton,” “Derry Girls”), Ritu Arya (“The Umbrella Academy”), Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Dua Lipa and Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”).

Gerwig directed “Barbie” from a screenplay by Gerwig & Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story,” “The Squid and the Whale”), based on Barbie by Mattel. The film’s producers are Oscar nominee David Heyman (“Marriage Story,” “Gravity”), Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Robbie Brenner, with Michael Sharp, Josey McNamara, Ynon Kreiz, Courtenay Valenti, Toby Emmerich and Cate Adams serving as executive producers.

Gerwig’s creative team behind the camera included Oscar-nominated director of photography Rodrigo Prieto (“The Irishman,” “Silence,” “Brokeback Mountain”), six-time Oscar-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Anna Karenina”), editor Nick Houy (“Little Women,” “Lady Bird”), Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran (“Little Women,” “Anna Karenina”), visual effects supervisor Glen Pratt (“Paddington 2,” “Beauty and the Beast”), music supervisor George Drakoulias (“White Noise,” “Marriage Story”) and Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a Heyday Films Production, a LuckyChap Entertainment Production, a Mattel Production, “Barbie.”

Barbie Theatrical Poster
Barbie Theatrical Poster

REVIEW – A Story about Life, Legacy and Motherhood

Barbie includes important substantive conversations ranging from issues of patriarchy, consumerism, motherhood, and growing up as a woman. While some of those are topics I can never fully understand, director Greta Gerwig certainly helped me gain a better appreciation. In particular, America Ferrera’s character Gloria has an incredible monologue in the third act about societal pressures forced onto women, and it was so moving. On top of being a top notch performance, the monologue painted a clear picture of some of the many ways women are pressured to be perfect. Gerwig’s writing and direction create a complete film with every emotion.  

The film is breathtaking in every way, it’s easy to get swept up by the production design, the costumes, the hair and makeup. The props were hand crafted by artists paying homage to the 50s and 60s, and how a toy world would look. For example, the inside of Barbie’s fridge or pool are 2D images. For the background, they used traditional matte paintings instead of CGI backdrops, as a nod to older Hollywood films. Barbie Land is very vibrant and pretty with lots of pink and beautiful buildings and decorations. Barbie feels alive.

Barbie also has an incredibly talented cast. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling take turns stealing the show from one another. Robbie delivers several incredibly moving and emotional scenes as Barbie, while Gosling embodies “Kenergy”, in a truly standout performance. The two leads have incredible chemistry with each other, which shine in both the comedic and heart-wrenching scenes alike.

Issa Rae as President Barbie
Issa Rae as President Barbie

The supporting cast is also fantastic. Issa Rae and Will Farrell are hilarious as President Barbie and the CEO of Mattel respectively. Kate McKinnon is Weird Barbie, the Barbie kids played with a little too roughly. She’s in the splits a lot and is generally a funny character who McKinnon plays very well. Simu Liu’s Ken has great chemistry with Gosling’s Ken, and their rivalry is fun to watch unfold, especially as it escalates and gets out of hand. 

The soundtrack is equally great and stacked with talent. Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” plays in a big party scene with a fun dance number. Billie Eilish’s “What Was I made for?” stands out with a welcome change of tone from the mostly upbeat songs on the soundtrack. Playing in what is easily the most emotional scene of the movie, and perhaps one of most moving scenes in recent memory for me, Eilish perfectly captures the conflicting feelings of growing up. 

Upon returning from Los Angeles and going back to Barbie Land, Gosling’s Ken picks up some patriarchal and misogynistic behaviors from our world, and it reminded me of how easily young boys are trained from an early age to be sexist from the society (and leaders) around them. Not to excuse it, but those things are largely learned behaviors, and there needs to be a conscious effort by men to unlearn and challenge those beliefs.    

(L-r) EMMA MACKEY as Barbie, NCUTI GATWA as Ken, SIMU LIU as Ken, MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie, RYAN GOSLING as Ken and KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR as Ken in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
(L-r) EMMA MACKEY as Barbie, NCUTI GATWA as Ken, SIMU LIU as Ken, MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie, RYAN GOSLING as Ken and KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR as Ken in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Barbie is a very layered film that has a lot of story to tell with so many characters. The film is also incredibly hilarious. One joke in the third act in particular is so perfect in that it pokes fun at a certain group of online fans, which had my entire screening room laughing hard.

Gerwig has crafted a touching picture for this iconic toy that’s about life, legacy, and motherhood. The film’s symbolism and representation of womanhood are powerful, and I urge everyone to read reviews of Barbie by women, particularly women of color, to gain an even greater appreciation for the film’s profound themes.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

RATING – 4.5/5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 4.5
IMG 9987 min

Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.

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