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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Barbie Review: Fashion Figurine Questions Societal ‘Perfection’

Hollywood’s current slate of summer blockbusters is on the floors. On the one hand, there is Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and on the other, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. Two diverse major films that highlight important societal subjects. If one is about the development of nuclear weapons and the Atomic Age, the other is a coming-of-age and self-discovery story with a feminist touch. Both are gearing up for a 21st July 2023 theatrical release worldwide.

Ever since its trailer, there has been a buzz about Barbie. The marketing campaign has been on point and taken social media by storm. The movie tries to strive beyond the Mattel fashion doll to create a relatable narrative. So what’s the plot?

The picture follows Barbie (Margot Robbie), who is expelled from Barbieland after not following its regulations of being perfect enough. The doll then embarks on an adventure where she discovers life without the confines of perfection. She chooses to test the real world and Ken (Ryan Gosling) tags along, which sees them meet the Mattel toy boss (Will Ferrel) who is not happy about their decision. From there, the pair struggle to adjust to the real world and learn many self-truths along the way.

Many tongue-in-cheek dialogues offer laughs throughout the movie. Helen Mirren’s role as the narrator adds to the ‘voice of reason’ stature as well as witty punchlines. Through the dialogue, she also provides contextual information about gender politics and stereotyping. At times, she breaks the fourth wall by addressing casting decisions and the creation of the film.

In fact, the nearly two-hour-length feature accentuates too much on wokeness and debunking socio-political regression. Whilst I think this is great for societal context, the fusion of this with a solid story and emotional depth lacks.

Of course, with Certificate 12A, the movie’s target audience is younger and family audiences. It is understandable why there is a heavy dosage of comedy, but the writing seems to merely just touch on poignant moments. In today’s day and age when we all re-evaluate the definition of perfection, this was a prime opportunity to candidly delve into Barbie’s psyche and vulnerabilities. There are some powerful lines about women finding their independent voices and own identities. These are quite hard-hitting and compel viewers to react in agreement. The main protagonist’s transition to experiencing human-like experiences is too quick and veers into the woke commentary.

Gerwig as a filmmaker paints the canvas with bright colours, creating a blur between reality and fantasy. The scheme is highlighted through Barbieland’s pink and blue, candy-floss-like colours which are contrasted starkly with the greyness of Mattel and status quo workers. The fantasy and realism crossover is fascinating, but the paper-thin storyline does not match Barbie‘s strong social backdrop.

Given that the movie is predominantly filled with whacky and overdramatic moments, Robbie and Gosling are decent to watch. A similar thing can be said about Ferrell too. It takes a certain kind of balance for actors to portray such comedic roles and they all seem to have got the right tempo. A redeeming factor about the humour too, is that despite being garish, the comedy is not cringe or irritating. It also helps that the soundtrack is enjoyable. On the whole, Barbie offers some rib-tickling laughs. There is certainly a feel-good and fun factor in the movie. Just wish the writing carried more substance in its storytelling.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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