Arts & Culture
Film Review: The Barbie Movie


By Jessica Durston

Earlier this week, I finally made it to the cinema to go and see Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster hit, The Barbie Movie. Before you ask, no I did not do Barbenheimer because there were not enough hours in the day, and I think I would have lost all feeling in my buttocks if I had sat through both. 

Let’s begin this review by stating that I absolutely loved the film, and it has instantly become a new favourite. 

The plot follows Barbie (who names herself ‘stereotypical’ Barbie as she is without a job like the others) and Beach Ken who live in Barbie Land. Everything seems perfect - if a little monotonous. Suddenly Barbie finds herself changing and becoming off-kilter. She is told she must travel to the Real World and seek out advice from the human child she is connected with, or failing that, the team at Mattel to right the wrongs that are happening to her body and her mind. Chaos ensues when the living dolls reach the Real World, but Barbie learns some valuable lessons about herself, life, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be the ‘perfect Barbie.’

The casting for the film is impeccable and diverse. There are Barbies of all shapes, sizes and skin tones, all shown as pillars of the Barbie World community with their varied and important careers. There are also a lot of famous faces that audience members are sure to recognise. Margot Robbie cast as the main ‘stereotypical’ Barbie works so incredibly well. Aside from being gorgeous, blonde, and looking great in pink, Robbie taps into Barbie’s vulnerability as she is faced with the issues within the real world. Despite being branded the ‘stereotypical’ Barbie without any set career path, she feels the most real and undergoes one of the biggest journeys of self-discovery within the movie. 

Ryan Gosling as Ken is another perfect choice - and dare I say this is his best role ever? His range of emotions and brilliant comic timing make him an incredible asset to the film. He even gets his own musical number - ‘I’m just Ken’, which is something to behold. Although the Kens and the patriarchy are mocked within the feature, the digs are dealt in a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ manner that is supposed to satirise rather than spread a powerful misandrist message. Ken is not treated as just a 2D character that becomes the butt of the joke, his emotional side and sense of identity is explored - the good, the bad, and the ugly (the ugly being hard of course because it is Ryan Gosling).

The team working on this film must have spent a huge amount of time going through the Barbie memorabilia archives as the amount of accurate playsets, outfits and characters brought to life in 3D was staggering. I had a plethora of different Barbies and Barbie playsets growing up and it was such a fun experience to see the dolls as real people on the big screen. There’s a clever reference everywhere you look and I’m sure I can’t have been the only person to feel nostalgic for my toybox. 

The Barbie movie appeals to the inner child and visually is a real feast for the eyes. The glitz and glamour of the Barbie parties, the costume changes, and bright pastel set pieces completely immerse you in Barbie Land. Greta Gerwig’s love for technicolour cinematic spectacle masterpieces like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘An American in Paris’ can be felt throughout the film. Additionally, the soundtrack has a lot of modern, female, poppy, fun, songs to match the visuals. 

But don’t get me wrong, as well as looking and sounding great, the content of the film’s script is fantastic too. I was laughing all the way through the movie at both the more obvious visual gags, and the more intelligent satirical content that would likely go over younger viewers’ heads. I’m not saying children would not enjoy The Barbie Movie, but I think they would properly enjoy it and understand the loftier messages when they’re that little bit older. 

The movie explores a number of themes including equality, feminism, friendship, finding yourself in a state of existential crisis, and motherhood. I was moved to tears more than once. Although the film is a love letter to women and femininity - I do not believe it attacks men, it just strengthens the idea that empowerment for all, that equality, is the real way forward. It looks at seeking out the true meaning of equality, and to find the right balance so the scales do not tip too far either way. Margot Robbie’s Barbie character is used to bridge the gap between the Real World and Barbie Land. 

As well as going on an emotional ride, I was thoroughly entertained, and was cheering Barbie on from the get-go. I would highly recommend booking a ticket to see this film, and enjoying a few hours in Barbie Land before the feature tumbles out of cinemas.