BARBIE. The human heart beats in the land of plastic [REVIEW]
If someone had told me a decade ago that Noah Baumbach, the leading chronicler of American neurosis, would co-write a Barbie movie, I would have thought that someone was crazy. And if he had told me that Greta Gerwig, the creator of countless on-screen weirdos, would be directing this film, I would have thought it was complete madness. Meanwhile, on July 21, 2023, on what is probably the most powerful conjunction of blockbuster cinema premieres in years, the world received a film portrait of the iconic doll, which not so long ago could not have been expected.
Created in 1959 by Ruth Handler and named after her creator’s daughter, Barbie became the model for all other dolls aimed at girls of all ages. The toy-symbol, on which four generations of women around the world grew up and are still growing up – if I count correctly – has just had its own film. And it is by no means a congratulation – Greta Gerwig in her version of Barbie settles accounts with this symbol and its importance, and also tries to redefine it in a way. And he definitely does not use half-measures – when he is naive, it is before the capital N; when it’s funny, it’s all the way, and when it’s touching, it’s better to have a box of tissues with you, because there is no shortage of scenes that can move the toughest guy. Barbie sets the cat among the pigeons by discussing patriarchy, feminism and everything in between. And it is this “in the middle” that seems to interest the Gerwig-Baumbach duo the most.
The story told in Barbie is not entirely original – here is Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) begins to feel some turmoil not only in her daily routine of the perfect doll, but also in the mental and physical spheres. At the urging of a kind of Barbieland shaman (the great Kate McKinnon), he embarks on a special mission to the human reality to regain his balance and that of his world. Of course, she is accompanied by Ken (Ryan Gosling), brought in Barbieland to the role of a not very bright admirer, for whom a visit to the real world turns out to be a formative experience. Contact with people overturns the value system of both dolls and triggers an avalanche of events that redefines Barbieland for good. At the feature level, Gerwig’s film is almost an adventure game – a lot happens and fast, there is a trip to an unknown land, colorful worlds (this Barbie is more colorful than the human one), and transformation, not only of the main character, but almost everyone. Already at the genre level, Barbie provides enough arguments to immerse yourself in her world. And then there’s the content.
Not blinded by feminism
According to the modest author of this text, this is the greatest asset of Greta Gerwig’s work. Barbie is not an agitator blinded by feminism, but an attempt at polemics and encouraging the search for middle-of-the-road solutions. If Gerwig puts feminism into her film, it is equality feminism, criticizing both patriarchy and all other ideological extremes that seek vengeful reparation for decades of inequality. There are moments of reflection in Barbie: the hardships of being a modern woman, the principles of partnership between both sexes, the mechanisms of fighting patriarchy, and finally the symbolism of the Barbie doll, which can be both an inspiration and a huge burden. Despite the powerful energy and dynamics of the story told here, there is room for many important thoughts that – as the creators of this film certainly hope – will inspire many viewers to revise their views on the social roles and requirements assigned to women and men.
I don’t think there’s any need for me to convince you that Margot Robbie as Barbie is phenomenal – it was evident from the set photos and trailers – but it’s true. She is amazing both when she is 100% confident in her own world and when she is overcome by doubt and helplessness. When he smiles, the cinema hall fills with a glow; when she cries, she does it more beautifully than any other actress in history. But it is not the phenomenal beauty of Margot Robbie that is Barbie’s greatest strength, but the final tone of her heroine’s adventures, who – entering the screen with a feminist song on her lips – does not wade into blind “girl power”, but rightly calls for balance.