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“Barbie” Movie Review: An Instant Cult Classic

"They're Kenning all over the place. They're Kenning all over each other. They're Kenning everywhere. And they're Kenning so hard that they're gonna Ken themselves blind if they don't stop Kenning." – Ryan Gosling

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s everything you can imagine. It’s an explosion of hot pink, glitter and sequins. There’s a mob of heart-shaped dresses, pink stilettos and dolled up makeup. And I’m only describing the audience members at the Barbie early access screening, myself included. Walking into the movie theater felt like stepping into another dimension of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. The Barbie premiere was the perfect place to celebrate womanhood, and the audience was proud to embrace their femininity.

As for the movie itself, it is everything and nothing you can expect. Writer and director Greta Gerwig masterfully creates an overt satire on gender inequality that is intertwined with her typical exploration of womanhood. The movie has a collection of hilarious one-liners, nuances, and spectacular dance sequences. Gerwig’s sincerity for the screenplay and production as a whole makes Barbie all the more special. Her vision is anchored by stellar performances from Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, and the rest of the Barbie and Ken cast. Robbie gives a heartfelt and effervescent portrayal of Stereotypical Barbie; meanwhile, Ferrera delivers an unforgettable monologue about women and mothers carrying a burden of impractical expectations. There are many takeaways from the film, and Gosling’s performance as Ken is one of the most memorable ones. Even before the film’s release the excitement about Ken is due to Gosling’s press interviews where he gives unhinged answers and radiates himbo energy. His comedic timing is flawless from beginning to end, and Ken also has a perfectly executed emotional arc.

Gosling’s Ken leads the rest of his Ken crew in a show-stopping, retro power ballad about inadequacy titled “I’m Just Ken.” It is one of 17 songs featured on the iconic Barbie soundtrack, now available on streaming platforms. Dua Lipa, who also stars as Mermaid Barbie, released its lead track, “Dance The Night,” a shining song and the perfect theme for Barbie’s blowout party. The pop girlies grace the soundtrack, including hits from Charli XCX, Lizzo, Ava Max, and PinkPantheress as well as other hitmakers like FIFTY FIFTY, HAIM, Sam Smith, and the collaboration of Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, and Aqua for “Barbie World.” Yet, one song stands out among the otherwise upbeat soundtrack: “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish. Its slow, melancholy nature sets the mood for Barbie’s emotional journey and inner turmoil. It’s used beautifully in the film and accompanies a moving scene about identity and purpose.

Credit: Matt Baron / BEI / Shutterstock, Left to right: Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig

There are many movies centered around a character’s identity crisis, but not many of them are set in a dazzling fantasy of pink. The multicast Barbies and Kens perform epic musical numbers and beach-offs, making you laugh out loud at the pure absurdity of everything. The extravagant scenes perfectly balance the existential aspects of Barbie’s mortality dilemma. Once Barbie’s stereotypical beauty–the very purpose of her being–falters, she must ask herself, “Who am I now? Who do I want to be?”

In Barbieland, she contains multitudes. Barbie is you, but also Barbie is her. She is all at once a physicist, a Nobel Prize winner, and a mother while also being the picture-perfect stereotypical Barbie.

You simply can’t fit Barbie in a box.

She is simultaneously everyone and no one, and this existential crisis prompts Barbie to leave the blissful utopia of Barbieland and enter the chaotic Real World. However, life as Barbie knows it is quickly turned on its head. Not everything is pink in the Real World, and not everyone gets along. There’s a social order and certain expectations women must follow to succeed or simply get by.

Barbie’s time in the Real World mimics the staggering transition from girlhood to womanhood when suddenly you become conscious of your being and realize that as you walk away, the boys on the playground will continue to play without you. Life loses its sparkle, and suddenly you look around and realize you’ve outgrown Barbie dolls. In her haze, Barbie seeks comfort with Real World teens only to quickly realize that everything she thought she stood for–empowerment, leadership and sisterhood–is tangled in harmful patriarchal standards.

So Barbie is faced with two realities: either living in a fool’s paradise in Barbieland or living imperfectly in the Real World... But perhaps it’s not either/or. Sure, womanhood isn’t the dreamlike fantasy world we invented in our youth, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon it entirely. The five-year-old who imagined her Barbie as President is still within us. And so is the little girl who orchestrated fantastical house parties in the Dreamhouse. For two hours, Barbie asks us to tap into our inner child to ease the struggle of everyday existence. There is a voice that follows you home long after the movie has ended and whispers, “Hey, remember those dreams you had?”

“Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever.” – Gerwig’s Barbie

Barbie is everything that was needed when everything was needed. She doesn’t have everything figured out, and that’s okay. She trips, she falls, she lays face down on the ground, but most importantly, she gets back up. She is vulnerable to Real World struggles where change is inevitable and sometimes distressing, but with a little help from her friends, she learns to stand on her own flat feet.

Barbie assesses the human experience and how terribly lonely and oddly wonderful it is. Gerwig tells “The Guardian” that her movie is about “Barbie, an inanimate doll made out of plastic. But the movie ends up, really, about being human.” Barbie is as absurd as it is meaningful. The movie accomplishes all of its goals and reminds us that we are meant to change just as we are meant to dream, love, hope and endure. At its heart, Barbie is about authenticity.

She is Barbie, and that is (k)enough.


Jamie is an Online Writer for Rowdy Magazine. Her four favorite films on Letterboxd are Little Women (2019), Pitch Perfect, The Sound of Music and About Time.

1 Comment

Wonderful review.

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