FILM REVIEW - Barbie
By The Masked Medic
You knew this was coming. The double bill of the year had to have a review hand in hand as well. After watching the cinematic masterpiece drama that was Oppenheimer, I obviously had to go and watch Greta Gerwig’s summer blockbuster; Barbie. Bear in mind that I knew very little about the film, I was still quite excited to see it!
‘Barbie’ starts the story of Barbie, obviously. There are however, many different Barbies and many different Kens and all of them live in ‘Barbieland’, a fictional land that exists in tandem with the real world. We follow ‘Stereotypical Barbie’ and her often over-eager companion ‘Beach Ken’. One day Barbie wakes up and realizes that she’s become self-aware. Horrified, she goes and visits ‘Weird Barbie’ who lives on the edge of town. She tells Barbie that the problem with her may be coming with the person who is playing with her doll form in the real world and that in order to fix the issue she needs to find that person and see what’s up with them. As Barbie leaves on her mission, she is accompanied by Ken, who sees this as a chance to help out the woman that he loves. However, once in the real world, both characters are shocked to see how it operates. Barbie finds herself receiving unwanted attention from men around her and as she sets out on her mission, finds continual metaphorical roadblocks in her way. Meanwhile, Ken, who has lived his life feeling like a side character, realizes that in the real world, he has more importance thanks to something called ‘The Patriarchy’. He doesn’t quite understand it, but whilst Barbie does her thing he returns to ‘Barbieland’ to tell his fellow Kens about it. Barbie finally connects with the human who’s been causing her to have all of these existential thoughts, and it turns out it’s the mother of a teenage girl. They return to ‘Barbieland’ only to realise that thanks to Ken, all the Barbies are now side characters and the Kens have taken charge. Can Barbie help her friends realize their worth and take back their kingdom? And just what do the Kens really want from their existence?
When this film was originally announced, the film executives had already decided that the only person who could truly play this role was Margot Robbie. Margot has had a fantastic career so far, stepping out of the shadows of being an objectified supporting character, to playing lead roles in which she does pretty well, even if I do have an underlying dislike of Harley Quinn. I’d agree with the filmmakers about Barbie though, because having watched the film, I think she bought an exuberance to the role that only she could have. Supporting cast included a number of Barbies played by a number of impressive actresses including Issa Rae, Alexandra Shipp, Kate McKinnon and Emma Mackey, amongst others. Each Barbie bought something different to the film, whilst at the same time, not taking any of the shine away from Margot’s Barbie. There was a standout performance for me. I have to explain this one so that people don’t get mad. I think Margot as Barbie was perfect casting, and she put in a fantastic performance, however, Ryan Gosling playing the lead Ken was a stroke of genius. I’ve often thought Gosling is so underrated as a comedic actor, and in this film ,it was so clear that he is hilarious. I know the film is called ‘Barbie’, but I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone that didn’t think Ken was the best part of it!
Naturally, because of the nature of the release date, there was so much comparison between ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’. On one hand, it makes sense, both were hugely influential figures in the 20th Century. On the other hand, what a ridiculous comparison. For that reason, there will be no comparison in this review. So let’s get to the halcyon that is this film. With Greta Gerwig leading at the helm and Margot Robbie as the lead star, the film clearly has a message and the plot follows that. I have admiration for the way that they attempted to give purpose to the iconic toy, but also the message to many young women that they shouldn’t be limited to feeling like they are side characters in the stories of their lives. Clearly, the film has messages for young men, explaining how the nature of the patriarchy we see in our culture now has become detrimental to both genders. Even Ken’s explanation at the end where he admits that he knew very little about the patriarchy is a play on the fact that the nature of the idea has changed. Together both characters' stories mesh together to give a fun watch with a deeper message for those who can understand it!
Okay, let’s talk cinematography. The aesthetic of ‘Barbieland’ was done very well, and the way that the actors were walking and talking was also very similar to the way that Barbie and Ken dolls move. Part of me thought that was clever, part of me thought it was hilarious. Added to that were some of the graphics, especially for those characters traversing between “Barbieland” and the Real World, which were done well. The music was a key part of the film, although the high points were the actual songs, rather than the background soundtrack. Overall, Barbie was a fun watch, and perhaps when watched with Oppenheimer would be enough to dull the pain of what our “Real World” is really like. Robbie and Gosling put in fun performances, but it is very much a one-time watch. I would also like to take this moment to state that there’s nothing wrong with being obsessed with the ‘Snyder Cut’!