The buzz in industry press and social media is high regarding the impending Barbie/Oppenheimer opening on July 21st. I’m here to say that Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a refreshing, spritely comedy that holds its PG-13 rating close to its chest. A number of its themes do run more adult and high-brow. To parents thinking of taking their children, hold off on that idea until you’ve seen it.
To their credit, screenwriters Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach wrote a touching story, using every Mattel doll and play set in their toy chests. The story has heart, is full of genuine laughs from the opening frame through the closing frame, and firmly plants Margot Robbie’s Barbie and Ryan Gosling’s Ken front and center.
I had concerns that the story would parallel Des McAnuff’s The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle from 2000, and to an extent, it follows a similar pattern. However, Gerwig does not clamp down on the character’s histories as The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle did. Where The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle didn’t know what to do with that story’s human side of the fantasy, Gerwig dives headlong into the characters, finding a blueprint to tell a story of idealism, hope, and opportunity.
If you will allow me, I’m the middle of three kids; I had the benefit of growing up in the 80s with Star Wars with my brother and Barbie with my sister (don’t judge!) My adventures with both of them primed me for the modern iterations of these stories as an adult, and I’m glad I was exposed to them, fueling my curiosity about Barbie.
Barbie is a fantasy comedy film. Gerwig’s approach, combined with performances from Robbie, Ryan Gosling as Ken, and America Ferrera as Gloria, blur the lines of “fantasy” to the point where, if you are able to pick up on the more high-brow concepts, you won’t mind that it is a fantasy.
Yes, the film is centered on Robbie, and her performance as Barbie is heartfelt and touching. The script and Gerwig’s direction allow her to flex a range of unsurprising emotions. Gosling pulls from several performances from other films he’s done. Both leads shine in their character arcs, giving us an emotionally satisfying, well-rounded, and human story.
Ferrera’s Gloria is one of the many surprises, and I won’t reveal specific plot points here. Ferrera not only acquits herself in her role but standing up next to Robbie and Gosling is not an easy feat; Gloria is easily the best non-foundational-Mattel role in Barbie.
Michael Cera as Allan, Ariana Greenblatt as Sasha, and especially Helen Mirren each have moments that shine. There is, I hope, another acting surprise that was equally as touching. A gag involving Will Ferrell’s character, the CEO of Mattel, runs its course long before the film closes. It is a minor detail. Ferrell’s performance is spectacular.
Early reviews have called for Gosling to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance. As the dust [hopefully] settles down from the SAG/WGA/AMPTP strike, I’d dare say that the film deserves a Best Picture nomination; Barbie is that good!
Warners pushed the film. It had to, going up against Oppenheimer, the holdovers, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and the solid word-of-mouth performance over Sound of Freedom. Oppenheimer plays to a different audience, so the opening weekend box office is anyone’s game.
A comedic and thoughtful story populates Greta Gerwig’s film. Barbie is blustery and vivid. It takes just enough time to poke fun at itself and its audience while telling a resoundingly human story. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling shine! Barbie is a 10 (and so is Ken!)