The large anticipation over Barbie is a great case of how the moviegoing crowd is eager to watch something different from the male-dominated and bombastic action tentpoles in the multiplexes.
This movie is Greta Gerwig’s latest directorial effort (she also co-wrote the film with long-time collaborator/partner Noah Baumbach), which seems like the most far-fetched choice for the gig after helming more contemplative works like Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019). But Barbie is surprisingly delightful, wholesome, and, in the spirit of Gerwig’s movies, unravels into a strong statement about womanhood.
The movie is set in the fictional world of Barbieland, where a community of toy dolls named Barbie and Ken harmoniously live together and enjoy all kinds of euphoric activities without worries. At the center of it all is regular Barbie (Margot Robbie), the classic version of the doll who encounters physical changes in her body and begins to imagine existential dreads.
These alarming changes force her to embark on a mission to find her creators in the real world to bring things back to normal. Accompanying Barbie on this trip is her lover Ken (Ryan Gosling), who discovers his new calling in the real world.
There are so many surprises that were not shown in the movie’s promotional trailers. For one, the titular character’s trip across two worlds was immediately resolved in the first hour. What comes after is a hilarious turn of events that I'm curious how Gerwig got away with.
A lot of creative choices in Barbie could easily become cheesy or forced if in the hands of a clumsier filmmaker. But Gerwig allowed herself to become playful and in some moments, enable her inner child, to weave through the movie’s cartoony humor and tender bits.
It’s also worth noting how generous she was to her actors, who all had their memorable moments shine. Margot Robbie is unsurprisingly great, but if there’s one reason to see Barbie, it’s Ryan Gosling. Gosling pulled off the camp and comedic timing beautifully that’s actually in service of his character, instead of being in service of potential audience reactions. In the movie, Gosling sings two intimate songs that hysterically unfold into exciting musical set-pieces akin to Grease (1978) and even The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967).
Speaking of Young Girls, the production design of Barbie feels like it was lifted from a Jacques Demy film. The look of Barbieland in particular is vibrant and beautifully artificial so it’s not a shocker why Gerwig chose a lot of Demy’s works as inspirations for her movie.
Beyond its look and strong cast, the biggest charm of Barbie is that there’s something to enjoy for everyone, both children and adults. The movie may have taken a side turn in its final act, where a pivotal realization in the lead character was cut short to wrap things up, but it’s an overall great time and pure bliss at the movies. Gerwig hit the home run with Barbie—and it’s only valid to be excited about what she does next.
Barbie is now showing in Philippine cinemas. Watch the trailer below.