Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

dir Greta Gerwig
scr Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
prd David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner
with Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Rhea Perlman, Michael Cera, Simu Liu, Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa, Connor Swindells, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Alexandra Shipp
narr Helen Mirren
release US/UK 21.Jul.23
23/UK Warners 1h54

ferrara greenblatt mckinnon

43rd Shadows Awards

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mackey, liu, robbie, gosling and ben-adir
For a bubblegum-hued romp based on an improbably proportioned doll, this movie is bold, smart and surprisingly sophisticated. It may look like a silly action adventure, but textured dialog and rapid-fire gags add important layers of meaning that strike a nerve. Director Greta Gerwig, writing with husband Noah Baumbach, and producer-star Margot Robbie are having a lot of fun here. But strong ideas are churning under the goofy surfaces.
In Barbieland, the women run everything. In her dream home, Barbie (Robbie) has a happy life, while her boyfriend Ken (Gosling) is only required to beach. Then Barbie starts having thoughts of death, and everything begins to change. After consulting Weird Barbie (MacKinnon), she heads to the real world with Ken to find the girl who is playing with her. This leads her to Sasha (Greenblatt), a surly teen whose mother Gloria (Ferrara) works for the Mattel CEO (Ferrell). But Ken becomes distracted when he discovers "patriarchy", and returns to Barbieland with a revolutionary idea.
Continually lampooning gender roles, the script is packed with razor-sharp jokes that are both hilarious and intentional. Mirren's droll narration notes that there are no problems with feminism in Barbieland, but there are clearly other issues relating to identity and codependency. Meanwhile, the film is designed with a riotously pink palette, musical numbers and action beats are gloriously choreographed, and everything is played broadly for laughs. But when the Mattel execs try to coax Barbie back into her box, the intensity is real. And the Barbies' rescue caper is both astute and very funny.

Robbie and Gosling are terrific in layered roles that are amusing, engaging, emotional and full of surprises. Greenblatt has her own moments, especially in Sasha's vicious read of Barbie as a warped idealisation of femininity. Ferrara has a nicely nuanced role climaxing in Gloria's speech about how being a woman is contradictory, thankless and impossible. Side players and cameos continually add energy and spark. And Perlman is simply wonderful as Barbie inventor Ruth Handler.

This intelligent film plays equally with male and female fragility while grappling with complex ideas about romance, loneliness and age. In other words, this isn't a movie about girl power at all; it's a cry for individuality, that who we are should never depend on a relationship or on what anyone else thinks about us. This message, along with a gorgeous mother-daughter subplot, is delivered with unusual subtlety, wrapped up in a thrillingly rambunctious adventure that we never want to end.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 17.Jul.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall