SPOILER ALERT: This column contains potential spoilers about “Barbie.”
“Barbie” shouldn’t work, but it does. It really, really does. For a film that’s been hyped up since its announcement in 2019, the plot has been kept incredibly under wraps — which is a good thing. I firmly believe it’s best to see this movie knowing absolutely nothing, so if you’re reading this before seeing the movie, stop, go see the movie.
Hopefully, you went to watch the film then came back to the article because I’ve got a lot to say about this movie.
“Barbie” was co-written and directed by Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird” and “Little Women”) and stars Margot Robbie as the titular doll. Everything is perfect in Barbie’s life — perfect outfit changes, choreographed dance parties and women in power. That is until thoughts of death and existentialism began to flood her head, leading Barbie and her sort of (but not really) boyfriend Ken (Ryan Gosling) to venture into the real world.
The film subverts plot expectations frequently, what initially starts as a fish out of water comedy quickly turns into a chase film before settling into a surprisingly poignant commentary on the toxic and infectious nature of the patriarchy.
As someone who played Barbies with his sister, I was overjoyed to see Barbieland brought to life. The attention to detail with the dreamhouses and cars was amazing. From the sticker food backdrop in the fridge to the slide attached to every dreamhouse, it quite literally looked like the toy playhouse enlarged.
Even the costume and hair design are so hypnotic it deserves a shoutout. Every Barbie and Ken is a perfect replica of existing and new dolls, perfectly bringing to life the bright pastel clothing we see on the toys.
Playing Barbie is no easy task, as the film addresses the controversy surrounding the doll — body image, unrealistic expectations, the list goes on — but Margot Robbie walks an extremely delicate line with Barbie. Robbie imbues this literal walking perfection with so much genuine feeling that when she begins to doubt her existence in a world that doesn’t seem to want her, you really feel for her as if she were a real person.
It is Ryan Gosling though who steals the show in every scene he’s in. Whether he’s dramatically wilting in the background or performing a show-stopping power ballad — that’s as delightfully self-serving as it is thoughtful — he gives Ken a delightful himbo energy that is a joy to watch.
Through Ken, “Barbie” explores the ideas of patriarchy, mainly that no one truly benefits from a system that demands everyone live up to an expectation while criticizing those who fail to meet it.
With a stunningly heartfelt message about the struggles of women, the film also explores what it means to be a man in this system, suggesting that living up to this idea of “manly men” might not be as ideal as it sounds. Sorry, Candace Owens.
The film urges us to find our value in ourselves, not in the things that society tells us will make us happy. In pursuing those false expectations, we can lose ourselves and do more damage to those we care about than we would expect.
While the conservative right seems intent on bashing the film, I can’t recommend it enough. A message for women that made my theater tear up and a message for men that made me really think about how I want to live my life, this movie has something for everyone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to buy a pink denim jacket and boots.