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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

Barbie Movie Review: Sweet yet serious. A Camp Cautionary Tale. (Mild Spoilers.)

At this point everyone knows about the Barbie movie, whether from all the signs, the pink Barbie Dreamhouse Air BnB, to the viral sensation Barbenheimer, the combining of Barbie and Oppenheimer marketing.

But what is it actually about?? Well, it’s about a Barbie, played by Margot Robbie. The perfect woman, “Stereotypical Barbie,” is the one you think of when you hear the name. She lives in Barbie World, a place I’d very much like to visit, an all-pink, plastic-coated, women-run dreamscape where the water is imaginary, and everything is wonderful.

Everyone in the land is named Barbie, or Ken (with the exceptions of a choice few,) and basically, every Barbie has their Ken, and they go about their perfect lives, living by the beach, having dance parties, and floating off of their homes.

Then, one day suddenly Stereotypical Barbie starts to feel weird. She thinks about death, her feet change shape, and she feels new emotions, self-consciousness, doubt, body shame etc. To fix this she goes to Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) who tells her she needs to travel to the real world and find the child that is playing around with her and making her feel these horrible things.

Then Barbie, and her Ken (Ryan Gosling), set off on a journey to the real world, and hijinx ensue. That’s all I’ll reveal about the story.

But the following capers and often devastating self-realisations in the movie are so far beyond what I thought this movie would be. The marketing and trailers all took place mostly in Barbie World, so when we are thrust into this new place we the audience feel as out of place in it as Barbie and Ken do.

While in the real world Barbie learns about the patriarchy, standards for women, and that she is often to blame for the shame some girls feel after playing with her as kids. Barbie goes Through It y’all and experiences every emotion in the real world. She cries for the first time, a single tear while she’s sitting in a perfect pink cowgirl outfit, and it’s the most beautiful shot of the movie. Why?

Well, let’s talk about Margot Robbie. We’ve seen her as Harley Quinn, Tonya Harding, Naomi from Wolf of Wallstreet, and if you’re an Aussie of a certain age like me, you’ll remember her as Donna Freedman from the Australian soap opera Neighbours.

She’s grown so much as an actress since then, so much that she’s unrecognizable when she enters a role. Even here, with Barbie, she just looks like herself (Stunning) but her beauty and effervescence shoot off the screen. She cries and laughs and feels genuine human emotions for the first time and it’s great! You can see it etched on every inch of her face.

Then, there’s Ryan Gosling, the man some DARED to say was too old to play Ken. We would have been robbed because Ryan Gosling’s Ken is an unhinged delight. Totally oblivious, and in love with Barbie to a fault, he follows her to the real world, and goes on his own journey. But he’s more than just Ken, he’s a strangely off-putting yet gorgeous idiot who just wants to make Barbie happy. No one else could pull off the child-like sincerity, range and puppy dog face better than Ryan freaking Gosling. He’s got the KENERGY baby.

When they return to Barbie World with answers Barbie finds to her dismay that everything has changed. So now not only does she have to contend with her own feelings, but the fall of her kingdom as well.

And Barbie World is SPECIAL. Designed by set producers Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, there is no CGI in the pink plastic and fantastic set. Everything, every prop is there to look like a toy or something a doll could hold, and the houses and beaches that the Barbies roam are also real. Honestly, the set is probably the most impressive part of the movie. They managed to create a child’s dream on an epic scale.

While we’re talking setting let’s also talk fashion because Ooh Honey it is a dream and a treat. We get all the different variations of Stereotypical Barbie, obviously Stepford Barbie, Roller-skating Barbie, and Cowgirl Barbie, but a bunch of others thanks to Jaqueline Durran. Every Barbie’s fashion is on POINT and I see a lot of pink showing up this coming Halloween.

The movie goes beyond this basic plastic superficiality though, intentionally separating the real from the pink and fake. America Fererra, ethe movie’s human heart, gives a rousing speech that calls out this fakeness, and all the other issues that come with being a real woman.

“𝘠𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦𝘯, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘴𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘵𝘰𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘥… 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘺𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘮 𝘪𝘴 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘥, 𝘴𝘰 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘈𝘓𝘚𝘖, 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘣𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘧𝘶𝘭!

Honestly, the whole speech is pretty iconic and well done to America for delivering it with such passion and defiance. Her performance reveals the meaning and history that puts Barbie

World in perspective and then turns it on its head.

If you wanted to look really deeply at Greta Gerwig's art and find meaning you could find themes that include: male fragility, the myth of defying the patriarchy, womanhood, sisterhood, motherhood, becoming oneself despite outside factors, ageing, dying, crying, self-sufficiency, co-dependency, the ease in which radical thinking can take over a small faction, and that all women, even old ladies, are beautiful.

If none of those themes entice you, then perhaps go and see Oppenheimer the next theatre over. But if you want a funny, earnest look at what it is to be human, go see Barbie.

(Or see both, that’s a thing now right? #BARBENHEIMER)

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