Approaching ‘Barbie‘ from a critical perspective after the omnipresent promotional display and its constant virality in networks is a difficult task. I approach the film with preconceived ideas and having already seen a good portion of its footage, so I risk that the result on screen does not match what I had imagined. But fortunately, Greta Gerwig’s film easily manages to rise above the enormous expectations that it is preceded by to give us a completely satisfying, fun and transcendental cinematic experience that reinvents the Mattel doll as a symbol and reference for our time.
Gerwig had a vision. And what a vision. With her previous work, ‘Little Women’, the audacious Sacramento filmmaker managed to present us with a work that we thought we knew perfectly well, and that had been adapted on multiple occasions, from a fresh and different perspective. And that’s just what he does with Barbie, one of the most iconic toys in history, whose influence on society (for better and for worse) serves the director, and her co-writer and artistic and sentimental partner, Noah Baumbach (‘ Story of a marriage), to create a universe of her own that shows us the blonde doll from an unprecedented perspective, to draw with her a current and very timely reflection on the role of women in society and our own human nature.
Barbie, played by Margot Robbie in what has become the paradigm of round casting (it couldn’t be any other), lives a peaceful and idyllic life in Barbie Land, where every day is perfect, everyone is in a good mood and the women They control society. However, one day, Barbie begins to notice that things are beginning to fail around her and feelings that she had never had until now, such as anxiety or fear of death, invade her head, so that He decides to go into the real world to find out what’s going on, inadvertently causing an unexpected effect on his world..
The first section of the film takes place in Barbie Land, a place of impossible optimism that reminds us of ‘The Truman Show’ or ‘The Perfect Women’ (without the sinister twist), which invades us with color and happiness from the moment we that we set foot on it. And that is imbued with a musical spirit that spreads throughout the film and sets the pace, inviting to dance.
The construction of the world of Barbie is of an overwhelming aesthetic and visual detail, with impressive realistic sets in pastel tones and a plastic finish, which give us a break from so much digital saturation, and a vibrant costume design that vindicates Barbie as a fashion icon. But also in the narrative, where Gerwig and Baumbach build a universe with rules that adapt the logic -and nonsense- of real life (how the girls play with the doll, how they move, how the physics around them works) of the wittiest and most self-aware way possible, with a lot of meta humor and direct winks at the viewer. The work they carry out, in which they leave nothing to chance, is pure and delicious world building.
In that first half, ‘Barbie’ is a feast of light-hearted humor, revelry and silliness, but Gerwig has crafted a film that is much more than just fun, striking a very difficult balance between clever goofy comedy, social criticism and emotion. In the same way, the film is a celebration of Barbie that pays homage to the doll’s history, to which she is truly fond and devoted, as well as her impact on girls and her influence on society. But the best thing is that it does not do it from an idealistic perspective, but rather bravely faces the problems around the wrist (mainly its negative influence as an ideal of physique and beauty) to invite us to reflect on it and show its evolution until reinventing itself as feminist icon who has gone through all professions, has many properties and fends for herself: “She is everything”.
Thus, ‘Barbie’ is built surprisingly (or not so much, if we know the thinking minds behind it) as an existentialist and very feminist treatise (although marketing has hidden it a bit) that talks about what it means to be human, and specifically, about what it is to be a woman and grow up in the patriarchy. Without abandoning at any time the playful character and the desire to entertain and make people laugh, the film elaborates a pink manifesto that puts Barbie in the mirror of our society and reminds us that hers is an unattainable ideal, forcing us to rethink everything. his existence.
Another audacity of ‘Barbie’ is to introduce Mattel herself into the story, drawing the company as a villainous entity that wants to put Barbie back in her box and that represents that patriarchy that invades and controls everything. It is surprising to see how Gerwig has gotten away with characterizing the corporation in this way, and how some jokes have passed the sieve. Although the contradiction of criticizing capitalism in a film like this can also be screeching, which is not only based on one of the best-selling products in history, but is also generating an overwhelming amount of new marketing inspired by it.
And just as Mattel presents itself from that (self)critical point of view, Ken’s role in the film takes on the aspect of an antagonist representing archaic masculinity, another risky decision that pays off well because, like Barbie, Gerwig ends up humanizing him too. If Margot Robbie is absolutely perfect in every way as Barbie, Ryan Gosling hits all the right notes as Ken (literally and figuratively), in a performance that marks a turning point in his career. Ken is the role of his life and it’s nice to see him fully unleash his comic streak, a facet that he does not usually explore so much on screen and that gives us here one of his best works. Gosling laughs at himself -and at all men- in a role in which more than one will not bear to see themselves reflected.
But let the Kenergy not cloud our vision, because Robbie is the one who carries the weight of the film on his shoulders, and he does it with another interpretation of overwhelming tuning. ‘Barbie’, in which she also works as a producer, is a vehicle that allows her to let loose in a field less explored by her, that of physical comedy, but which also gives her the opportunity to once again demonstrate the enormous dramatic actress that she is. with a work of great precision: there is no gesture, look, tear or word that is not where it should be.
Of the rest of the cast, which includes half of Hollywood and stands out for its inclusiveness and diversity (there are Barbies of different ethnicities, sizes, a trans Barbie, several LGBTQ+ actors), we must highlight a hilarious Simu Liu, who forms a duo with Gosling very funny comedian, Kate McKinnon, who plays the oracle Barbie Rare, or Michael Cera, who has a couple of unexpectedly great moments as Allan, Ken’s forgotten best friend. But if there is someone who deserves special mention, it is America Ferrera, who is the real heart that pumps the story and counteracts the eccentricity of Barbie and Ken. She makes one of the film’s most memorable moments her own, a monologue about what it means to be a woman and a mother that embodies the message of ‘Barbie’ and her inspiring and empowering intent. And one of the many scenes that will go deep among the public.
Looking into Barbie’s eyes
That ‘Barbie’ fell into the hands of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie is the best thing that could have happened. The first one shines with an exact direction in which it turns its cinematographic references (from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to the cinema of Jacques Demy or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’) and bringing out the best in the actors. The second embodies the spirit of the character in a masterful example of symbiosis. Together they carry out an authentic act of love towards the doll, but also and above all, towards women. Everything in the film is measured to the millimeter, an impeccable staging, a carefully selected soundtrack to round off each moment, an unbeatable cast, a highly inspired script and a message spun with passion and a lot of intelligence.
And emotion. A lot of emotion. Because it would not have been difficult for the story to get lost among so much idiosyncrasy and self-referential humor, but Gerwig remains firm in his personal vision at all times, preventing cynicism from taking over the story and turning it into a mere meta joke, speaking to us clearly from experience, like the girl she was and the woman she is. And letting Margot Robbie’s look tell us the rest.
‘Barbie’ is hilarious and irresistibly energetic, yes, but it’s also important, moving and full of precious moments. It is much more than a film, it is a thesis on the impact of the doll on society, it is an inclusive celebration of humanity and women, It is a hymn to equality and a call to the pink revolution, is a cultural moment and a cinematographic and social event. Indeed, Barbie is everything.
The best: His pure wit. Its perfect cast. Your production design. Their sense of humor. Its precision and detail. All.
Worst: Some mixed message. His eccentricity can saturate.