So who had Barbie as one of the best movies of the year on their box office bingo card?
Set in the idyllic matriarchal society of Barbieland, Barbie follows our titular protagonist as she lives a charmed life in a perfect world where seemingly nothing can go wrong for her and the countless other Barbies living their best lives around her. Consistently being wooed by a simpleminded, insecure, but highly determined version of Ken (Ryan Gosling), Barbie (Margot Robbie) is soon struck by an unusual and unexpected existential crisis that threatens to ruin her way of life for good. Deciding she needs to get to the bottom of this newfound revelation, Barbie (and Ken) make the jump to the real world where they meet a troubled mother and daughter duo in Gloria (America Ferrera) and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), two people who may be responsible for Barbie’s unraveling. Wanting to restore Barbieland to its former glory as well as her rightful place in it, Barbie sets out on a journey of wonder and self-discovery, all the while being hunted down by the very toy company that’s held her under their corporate thumb for over 60 years.
A great movie from start to finish and an even more important one for a demographic that doesn’t get nearly as much love at the box office as it should, Barbie nails virtually everything it sets out to say, show, and do, with the stellar direction of Greta Gerwig and her script, co-written with husband Noah Baumbach, only adding to the impressiveness of the filmmaking put on display here. Somehow finding a way to straddle the line between being a big-budgeted toy commercial, a surprisingly hilarious comedy, and a commentary-filled film that criticizes more long-standing institutions and backward ideas than I expected, Barbie excels in more places than one, especially when it comes to its perfect casting in Margot Robbie’s Barbie and the accessory turned his own man in Ryan Gosling’s Ken.
And while it’s true there are a few parts where the preachy-ness of it all becomes a bit more than what was probably necessary, nearly every other conversation, monologue, story beat, and character arc presented throughout has some kind of important message and feeling to impart on moviegoers that’s hard to miss. Whether finding a way to make audiences laugh, cry, or simply force them to look at the world from a different perspective, Greta Gerwig hones in on what makes Barbie as a brand so important to so many people while also finding a way to update her purpose and the conversation surrounding her influence as a trailblazing toy that inspired millions. By grounding this story in lofty and sometimes scary ideas of life, death, and what it means to be your own person, Barbie is a breath of fresh air in a franchise-dominant, studio-dictating Hollywood system that, as of late, is starting to show its cracks now more than ever.
Despite its PG-13 rating, this is an extremely important film for little girls and grown women alike to see as Barbie not only finds the sweet spot between being popcorn entertainment and a movie that’s actually about something but also does a commendable job of sharing its values and life lessons in a way that feels (mostly) nuanced and satisfying to explore. Regardless of your interest in this film’s subject matter, Barbie is a fun, funny, sometimes biting, and ultimately heartfelt movie everyone needs to see.