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'Barbie' review: How Greta Gerwig dropped a Lovebomb on moviegoers
This film completely took me by surprise.
On occasion, great movies hit you without warning, like a cinematic thunderstorm that was previously dismissed from the radar. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer had genius written all over it, from the marketing to the casting and execution. All of the ingredients are laid out right there. You could see that bottle rocket screaming towards your brain, and brace for it.
But Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is something else-a movie that caught me like a right hook out of nowhere. During Floyd Mayweather Jr.‘s most prominent boxing years, he would lure an opponent into the corner of the ring as if he was defenseless, and then pop him with a check hook. The check hook would send the opposing fighter hurdling into the ropes, unsure of what had just hit him. In other words, what would happen if Margot Robbie stared into your soul.
Gerwig is Floyd and I am the other guy in this situation. Man down! This isn’t a movie about a toy, or a doll. Barbie is about so much more than just the plastic toys that dominated decades of young girl’s lives, burying the hatchet with an emotional and superbly constructed take on the modern existential crisis. A crisis that affects every single one of us, every single day.
What are we doing here?
Are we doing it right?
Should we be doing more, though?
Wait a minute, what does everyone else think about what I’m doing?
Most importantly, what else is out there waiting for me, as in right around the corner?
Gerwig’s tale centers around Robbie’s Barbie, who lives in a Truman Show-type society where perfection and positivity is championed and thoughts of death and negativity are prohibited. When she starts feeling her morality creep on her one morning, Barbie’s world starts to shrink and her friends become numbered. All it takes is her randomly blurting out something about death for everyone in town to turn on her. Well, mostly everyone.
Ryan Gosling’s Ken is infatuated with Barbie, loving only the beach as much as her. He competes with several other Kens for her affection and attention, just like Robbie’s Barbie has to ward off other Barbies on a daily basis. In this land, you don’t just go to the beach. You go “beaching!” Ken is excellent at everything in his life, except for having Barbie by his side while beaching. Like his co-star, Gosling can easily channel any type of character and give him something extra. He’s a movie star AND an actor. The two have instant chemistry.
The fun spin on this world is that the women are in charge. They dictate the pace of society, carry all the government chairs (Issa Rae, Madame President!), and make all the rules. The Kens of the world follow their lead, but aren’t robotic morons. It’s simply a woman’s world in Gerwig’s joint, and cinema is better for it. How many damn movies have men making all the rules, and ladies looking distressed or just incredibly stressed? Too many. Here, the beat is different, and that’s fresh.
Barbie’s interference with the normal order of things (the death comment) throws everything off, sending her on a classic soul searching mission to the real world to make things right, worse… or possibly, better. Taking her out of a dreamland and setting her down in a reality where you actually eat food and drink things-instead of faking it like a tea party-is very entertaining to watch. More than a fish out of water tale but less than a depressing spin on life’s virtues and dreads, Barbie takes flight with a classic blend of drama and comedy.
More than anything, it’s a wonderfully sincere foot stomp for individualism in a world that doesn’t care for it. Living your life, holding onto the wheel as long as you can. “Feeling it,” as the lovely Rhea Perlman’s Ruth says near the end. At the end of our days, did we live enough?
Gerwig didn’t just make a great movie; it’s something that will buckle the knees and tug hard on the heartstrings for generations of viewers. It doesn’t ask for a lot in return. She’ll get you thinking about everybody you care about, while also lifting up the idea of being yourself, against the wind of people’s expectations-people you’ll never even meet. This is the work of a marvelous filmmaker who knows exactly what she is and wants to do.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are perfect castings on looks alone, but they take it a step further with their performances. They engage the idea of Barbie and Ken, and really go for it. Simu Liu, Issa Rae, Sharon Rooney, and Kingsley Ben Adir are just a handful of the members of a precise ensemble cast. I haven’t liked Kate McKinnon more than I did here.
But it’s Perlman and America Ferrera who are my standouts. They’ll amaze you. Each get that “moment” to knock the audience out. Whenever I think of the precious minutes I have left on the clock, I’m going to make sure I “feel it.”
I felt this movie. Barbie is a 10/10. John Wick 4 and Oppenheimer are outstanding achievements, but neither will make you feel this way leaving the theater. A collage of “moments” from real life near the end of the film just threw a dent in me. Not a minute too long or short, Barbie is exactly what the movies envisioned to mean when it comes to symbolism. Go see my friends at Galleria 6 Cinemas.
For the people who are whining about it championing women and dumbing down men, sit the fuck down and pay attention. All women do is stand strong in front of an unbeatable tower of judgement every day, and find a way to persevere in a world that waits for any chance to belittle them… when that person insulting only got here due to a woman holding his ass for nine months. I’m surrounded by badass women. It’s my happy zone. Gerwig celebrates it here without bashing men. She just doesn’t give them the microphone in the end.
Bravo. Oh, and it’s also a lot more funny than I expected! Give me a movie that can make me think, feel and laugh out loud, and I’m all yours.