Yes Folks the Pink Tide is Rising. And you can either sink – or swim to the nearest cinema and join Barbie’s massive, box office-busting celebration.
From the outset I have to confess when I started hearing about this film, I really didn’t get it. Like how hard up for original stories is Hollywood I thought, that they resort to making a blockbuster about a 60 year old doll? Who would care? And how is the colour pink going to change anything. Turns out I was wrong, this is a genius film, scratch your pink fingernail through the surface and you will find a joyous ride, full of fun, laughs and also deep existential meaning.
There’s definitely no chance of ignoring Greta Gerwig’s summer mega-movie. Buses, bridges, city landmarks, even phone boxes, have all been commandeered for the advertising onslaught. Hit the shops, gym, bar or pretty much anywhere this month and you’re probably going to be met by Margot Robbie’s flawless face beaming back at you. For many that won’t be an unpleasant prospect, but is life in plastic really that fantastic?
Our story begins in Barbieland, where its perpetually cheerful inhabitants awaken to embrace yet another splendid day. Picture a beachside paradise resembling Venice Beach, but with an amplified infusion of vibrant neon colours. In this realm, Barbies reign supreme while Kens pale in comparison. As the soothing voice of Helen Mirren narrates with a touch of humour, she remarks, “Barbie always experiences a fantastic day. However, Ken (wonderfully portrayed by Ryan Gosling) only has a great day when Barbie acknowledges him.”
This introductory line sets the stage for Gerwig’s satirical comedy-adventure, which fearlessly exposes and challenges the flaws of a society entrenched in sexism by cleverly by flipping them on their polypropylene-moulded heads.
Following a brisk 30-minute exploration of the town Barbieland, where we encounter Robbie’s portrayal of the “Stereotypical Barbie,” Issa Rae’s embodiment of “President Barbie,” and even Dua Lipa’s cameo-filled appearance as the captivating “Mermaid Barbie,” things take a turn for the worse. First, the waffles end up burnt. Then, upon opening the refrigerator, Barbie discovers expired milk. Later, a cold shower dampens her spirits, but the most troubling of all is her persistent contemplation of mortality. Barbie finds herself in the midst of an identity crisis.
To rectify the situation and restore her life to its pristine state of perfection, our peroxide-haired protagonist embarks on a journey to the “real world” (accompanied by a hilarious travel montage). There, she must assist in repairing a strained mother-daughter relationship stranded on the rocky shores of adolescence, serving as a catalyst for resolution. The ensuing adventure is a nuanced and rose-tinted comedy, complemented by an electrifying pop soundtrack featuring the likes of Lizzo and Billie Eilish—a combination that manages to live up to the sky-high expectations. To borrow a pun from Ken’s impeccably cool jacket (amidst a vast selection), Barbie proves to be more than “Ken-nough.”
Furthermore, viewed through the existential lens of the male counterpart Ken, portrayed brilliantly by Ryan Gosling, we delve into a profound and introspective exploration of his personal quest for purpose within a simulation where he merely serves as a accessory to Barbie. His occupation is simply referred to as “beach,” reducing him to a mere prop. In this eponymous film centred around the main character, Gosling’s contemplation of “to be or not to be” becomes exceptionally poignant, to the extent that he almost steals the spotlight with his performance.
Barbie is not only a delightful film but also incredibly hilarious. Robbie’s deadpan delivery, reminiscent of C-3PO, delivers a constant stream of laughter, yet it’s Gosling who steals the show, becoming everyone’s favourite toy. Sporting bright blonde hair, a wardrobe dominated by denim, impeccably sculpted arms, and a passion for the beach, he falls somewhere between David Hasselhoff and Justin Timberlake during the Britney era. However, he’s far less intelligent, and Gosling fully embraces the opportunity to oscillate between slapstick silliness and the kind of buffoonery reminiscent of The Inbetweeners.
Joining in on the fun are the Ken, played by the talented Simu Liu, who engages in comical feuds with Gosling’s jealous goon, Michael Cera, portraying a rogue character named “Allan” with his hysterically quirky mannerisms. Will Ferrell also makes an appearance, portraying the dim-witted CEO of Mattel, the manufacturers of Barbie. And then there’s Kate McKinnon, who shines as the wonderfully eccentric “Weird Barbie,” a traumatised outcast who suffered from being played with too roughly by her tween owner. If Barbie were to receive just one award during the upcoming awards season, it should undoubtedly go to the casting director, as they have assembled a truly exceptional ensemble of talented actors who bring the characters to life with sheer brilliance.
However, Barbie is not solely focused on providing laughs. The script holds unexpected moments of subtlety, particularly in the tender scenes that carry a strong emotional impact. It’s apparent that part of Mattel’s intention in bringing Barbie to the big screen is to redefine her outdated image of rigid beauty standards and unrealistic body conformity. Yeah right.
To that end, scattered throughout the film are marketing messages such as “Barbie means you can be anything,” which seemingly come straight from a press release. Yet, Gerwig’s clever direction ensures that these messages are delivered with self-awareness and sprinkled with sarcastic jokes. A standout moment is when Mirren humorously thanks Barbie for supposedly putting an end to misogyny. This approach maintains a delicate balance between the film’s reality and its commercial elements. It’s commendable that a movie ostensibly created to promote a doll manages to achieve such a harmonious blend. So, come on Barbie, let’s go party!
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