Barbie's Existential Exploration Shines in a Surprisingly Deep and Impactful Movie
Barbie and Ken in a car

(Warner Bros. Pictures, 2023)

"Barbie" is a clever, colorful comedy that expertly balances contemporary women's issues, social satire, and personal discovery. It smartly critiques societal norms in today's changing social landscape. We are currently in a time where we are gifted a Barbie movie that is both profoundly moving and insightful.

Directed by Greta Gerwig and co-written with Noah Baumbach, the film showcases their knack for addressing important issues and presenting them in a tangible yet thought-provoking way. Gerwig keeps cinephiles in mind as she wisely includes jokes about the red pill from "The Matrix," the snow globe from "Citizen Kane," and the male definition of Coppola's "The Godfather."

After an homage to "2001: Space Odyssey," we are introduced to Barbieland, a pink and pastel paradise. A world ruled by Barbies, where every day is filled with sunshine, happiness, and catchy tunes. Margot Robbie is perfect in her role as the" Stereotypical Barbie,"––a fourth wall break confirms this––undergoing an existential crisis that brings surprising emotional depth to her plastic persona. Ryan Gosling, as the charming yet somewhat naive Ken, provides comic relief while developing his own interesting character arc.

The film's plot is an intriguing blend of comedy and existentialism as Barbie grapples with her newfound self-awareness and is convinced to venture into the real world for answers. This is where we encounter the Barbie conundrum: Barbie as an icon of female empowerment versus her potential negative impact on young girls' self-perception and body image.

At one point, Robbie's Barbie meets teen Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), who informs her, "You've been making women feel bad about themselves since you were invented," and, "You set the feminist movement back 50 years, you fascist!" Instead of inspiring the human world, Barbie seems to have helped create a nightmare where men look at women like objects, and even women hate women. Gerwig's handling of these issues through the lens of Robbie's Barbie is thought-provoking.

Meanwhile, Gosling's Ken is experiencing the contrary—the Patriarchy, where men and "horses" are in charge. He can't wait to take this revelation back to Barbieland and inspire the other Kens to stand up and no longer hide in the shadows waiting for Barbie's approval.

Yet the film doesn't stop at social satire and gender politics. It further delves into individuality and self-discovery, suggesting that everyone, regardless of gender, has potential and should not be limited by societal norms.

The ensemble cast, including Issa Rae, Simu Liu, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Kate McKinnon, and Kingsley Benedir, adds unique flavors to the film. Each actor contributes to the narrative, from Robbie's nuanced portrayal of Barbie's personal journey to Gosling's charismatic performance––including an emotional guitar rendition of a Matchbox Twenty song during a low point in his arc.

While some jokes fall flat, and the pacing stumbles towards the end, the film occasionally struggles to find its tone. It can't decide if it wants to be all sunshine and rainbows or doom and gloom.

Sarah Greenwood's set design visually brings the film to life, creating a bright PINK, vivid, and colorful world. Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran's Barbie and Ken costumes add an extra layer of authenticity to the Barbie world.

While standing ovations are rare outside of Marvel movies, a scene featuring America Ferrera's character breaks that mold. In a crucial scene, she delivers a speech brimming with passion, relevance, and powerful emotion––a genuinely riveting moment celebrating women.

Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" is a bold, clever, and highly entertaining film that both celebrates and deconstructs the Barbie mythology while delivering a thought-provoking commentary on society. It's an achievement that proves you can turn a commercial toy into a meaningful, amusing, and resonant cinematic experience. Unlike IP movies like "Transformers," this one sticks with you long after the credits roll.