Barbie 2023 Movie Review
For a film like “Barbie” to succeed, every aspect had to come together perfectly. It needed to consummately balance satire with fun, the casting had to be spot-on, and the writing/directing required to pull off such a feat would need to be exquisite. Somewhat remarkably, that is exactly what writer/director Greta Gerwig pulls off here to create the best movie of summer 2023.
For a very basic overview, “Barbie” sees its titular character (played by Margot Robbie) living her stereotypically perfect life in Barbieland. Well, that is until she is plagued by those pesky intrusive thoughts of death, a flattening of her perfectly-heeled feet, and a trip to Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) to figure out what is going on. As it turns out, a rift has developed between Barbieland and the real world that only Stereotypical Barbie–accompanied by Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling)–can mend. But when Barbie & Ken have extremely different experiences in the real world, it leads to even more messiness between the worlds that precipitates further adventure/hijinks.
In terms of plot, somehow Gerwig manages to write and direct her way into the perfect tone with “Barbie”. A mere mention of the term “patriarchy” in today’s polarized landscape will more often than not lead to a line in the sand that neither side will cross, yet Gerwig perfectly examines and satirizes the subject by making the proceedings just so darn fun. Much like, say, Jordan Peele before her did with horror flicks like “Get Out” or “Us”, Gerwig uses a genre other than straight-up drama to get her satire and story themes across here. Sometimes, that proves to be the best “delivery service” and it is certainly true in this case.
Of course, solid/unique actors are required to carry out this quirky film’s shenanigans and softer moments, and “Barbie” comes up aces in that department too. Robbie is perfectly cast as the lead, with both her beauty and dramatic acting chops lending themselves to the film’s own dual nature. But more often than not it is Gosling who steals the show every time he’s on screen. To do what Gerwig wants to do with “Barbie”, the Ken role has to be perfect–and is here in the versatile style of Gosling (one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated acting talents). The rest of the cast is also filled with solid performances and wonderfully fun cameos.
“Barbie” is just as much a visual treat as anything else–they didn’t short the area of pink paint for no reason. DP Rodrigo Pieto creates a universe that is a sight to behold in every frame and then transitions some of those characters into a real-world environment with similar panache. All of this is of course given some drive by a killer soundtrack featuring the likes of Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and even Gosling himself!
Not only do I feel that “Barbie” eclipsed (even if narrowly in some cases) the bigger blockbusters like “The Flash”, “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning 1”, & “Oppenheimer”, but it subsequently vaulted Gerwig into the upper echelon of my must-see writers/directors (alongside Nolan, Villeneuve, Peele, etc.). After not knowing exactly what to expect from this film going in, I was utterly blown away by this experience.