Barbie The Movie
Released: July 20, 2023
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Helen Mirren, Kate McKinnon, Simu Liu, Michael Cera.
Like most humans I know, I’ve been pretty excited for the Barbie movie but the advanced screening dress code was daunting: Barbie Core. I’m a person whose entire wardrobe is black, has Barbie ever had an alternative faze? Turns out I own a pink tartan skirt and with that I declared myself punk-rock Barbie. I left the house feeling like a total dork but arrived at the cinema and felt completely under dressed. There was a pink explosion with so many women dressed in gowns and glittery outfits. I saw one woman in a tiara. This was a Barbie Prom. Warner Bros really outdid themselves with this screening offering. Normally we’re treated to a free drink and some popcorn but tonight we had multiple photo ops to play with and VIP lanyards that allowed us to sit at a nail salon (which I didn’t need because I’ve been rocking pastel nail polish since watching Promising Young Woman back in 2021 which I later felt validated in that choice when I saw the movie’s director Emerald Fennell on the screen as Midge – Barbie’s pregnant friend!), get some shiny hair gems thanks to Mermade Hair and free pink drinks – and a free musk vodka was definitely something I needed while standing in that foyer! I always feel out of place but I really felt it here.
The movie started and we’re introduced to a sad boring life of baby dolls – the only dolls that existed on the market for little girls until Ruth Handler invented the Barbie Doll, named after her daughter Barbara, which hit the toy market in 1959. Barbie showed young girls there’s more to life than motherhood and keeping house. Girls can grow up to own their own homes and have exciting careers. Sadly my own parents didn’t seem to realise this and never bought me a Barbie. Maybe I could have been a brain surgeon had my mother just bought me a career inspiring Barbie doll instead of this doll with a big head and overalls. But here we are.
The movie itself hit all the right notes for me because I didn’t want to see some super girly Barbie doll movie like most might be expecting. Instead we have existential crisis Barbie who thinks about death, has flat feet and cellulite. Just like the way young kids play with their dolls, Barbie’s dream house is wide open so she can see into all of her neighbours homes, none of her amenities work and she flies from the roof of her house straight into her car which has no need for steering. Everything in Barbieland is fake as fuck but oh so pretty. There’s no dust and no calories. I’d live there.
Now this bit had me thinking of the Jordan Peele movie Us, but in Barbieland, all Barbies have a human counterpart so with Barbie in meltdown mode she must travel to where the humans are – Los Angeles – to find the owner of her Barbie doll and set things right, but things go horrendously wrong when Ken hitches a ride. Barbie isn’t the only one having some kind of life crisis. Ken’s entire existence revolves around Barbie, grabbing her attention and having her recognise him for the great man he is, but she really couldn’t give two shits about him. It’s in the real world that Ken discovers the patriarchy, which involves horses, and things get out of hand fast. Meanwhile, we have the FBI notifying Mattel of a breach and Barbie finds out first hand that unlike Barbieland, men dominate Mattel and pretty much the rest of the real world.
Halfway through the film two halfwits entered the cinema and start chatting. Thankfully they left minutes later only to return and start up again. So I had the audacity to ask if she planned on talking through the rest of the movie, next thing there’s an almost Barbie Brawl – there’s nothing I hate more than people talking at the cinemas. It’s just so rude and self-entitled. As soon as this woman opened her mouth I knew she was lost, she belonged at a Bratz screening. Hilarity ensued when she started flapping her arms and called me a “weirdo” which I will take with great pride because “Weird Barbie” (Kate McKinnon) was probably the best Barbie of them all. If you’ve seen Small Soldiers then you’ve got a good idea what happened to her: she’s got a dodgy haircut, scribbles on her face and her house looks like something Wassily Kandinsky might be proud of. She was a whole vibe!
So for anyone still reading – Barbie is fun for the whole family. Kids will love the colour and spectacle on screen while the humour is most definitely for the adults. Greta Gerwig’s attention to detail is impressive representing the various Barbie models over the years and signature outfits. Throughout there are a few cameos to look out for including the OG Barbie herself – Barbara Handler. There was a lot of criticism over Ryan Gosling being “too old” to play Ken but seriously, who wants to see a 20-year-old Ken on the screen? I don’t. He nailed the role and he’s not too shabby at the singing either. Just Ken is definitely the incel anthem of the year and it better be nominated for an Oscar because it’s hilariously brilliant. I thought a soundtrack full of pop songs might kill me but it wasn’t nearly as overpowering as I expected. One standout was hearing dad-rock classic Push by Matchbook 20 – I’m not going to give anything away but everyone was in fits of laughter. I can’t comprehend who thought reimagining Barbie Girl was a good idea though. This was THE time for an Aqua revival but instead some rap queens slaughtered it. My main take away from this movie: it will be interesting to see if this film see’s a shift in how Ken dolls are sold in the future.
Review by: Katie Torrance
Barbie is in cinemas across Australia this Thursday.
Grab your tickets now via Warner Bros.