Barbie review – Did Barbie live up to the hype? Read on to find out

By: Priyal Joshi

A multiplex filled with boys, men, young girls and women across all age groups dressed in pink all in attendance to watch one of Hollywood’s most awaited films in India this year, Barbie was indeed a sight to behold. And for Barbie to have a house full of ticket paying audience especially when it was locking horns with another Hollywood biggie Oppenheimer is quite a feat. A David vs Goliath box-office fight for that matter.

Directed by Greta Gerwig and co-written by Noah Baumbach. Barbie is a well layered film covering different aspects of today’s feminist movement. The masses may have anticipated a light hearted film about every children’s favourite doll icon  but this was a Gerwig movie and it had to be more than just surface level storyline. After all some of her best known works – Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019) – are films set in simple settings dealing with deeper nuances of human relationships. One common element in her films has been the portrayal of  mother-daughter relationships. Gerwig is a feminist filmmaker whose characters are curious, transgressive and rebel against their restrictive circumstances and Barbie is no exception.

The movie features Margot Robbie as the ‘stereotypical’ Barbie along with Ryan Gosling as Ken and other Barbies, Kens and Allan in an utopian place called Barbie Land. The film showcases all models of Barbie ever released. It’s a world that is in stark contrast to the real one. Barbie Land is run by women and men are the second-class citizens. How women are mostly just reduced to being a romantic interest of a man with no other identity of their own is what Gerwig tried to showcase with the portrayal of Kens in Barbie Land. Barbie was supposed to be an empowering character to show young girls that they can do anything. But barbie had clearly set too high standards for that. It was next to impossible for girls to become like her. She was the idea of how a perfect woman should be. After their adventure in real world, Barbie and Ken go through an identity crisis. The part where Ken was fascinated by the concept of patriarchy was most amusing. The element of satirical humour is used effortlessly throughout the movie. With the meta premise of Barbie leaving her world and meeting her creators at Mattel in the real world, absolutely anything was possible.

There were a few aspects about this film that didn’t quite strike a chord. Firstly, the portrayal of men in the movie was the equivalent of what they say ‘women written by men’. From the Kens, Allan, Mattel CEO and the board members, representation of every man was highly underwhelming. At times, they were shown as unrealistically dumb. Apart from this, the mother-daughter dynamic was also a little less explored aspect and left many questions unanswered. The final sequence too could be seen as problematic. The pacing of the movie was a little haywire as there was not enough build up on each plot and the switch was almost instantaneous. Hence it was difficult to connect with all the characters and their emotions on a deeper level. The message of the movie seems a little incoherent with these little inconsistencies.

In the end, it is Barbie’s surprising decision which single handedly turned the movie into a big opportunity wasted. The movie did not show the audience any strong reason for her big decision. Nevertheless, the movie has a lot of good things to say. For starters, it is way more than just a toy commercial, it dives deeper into the concept of feminism today and how has the invention of Barbie changed the course of it. It has a strong message  for the audience and there’s a reason why people came sobbing out of the theatres. It hits the mark despite small loopholes. In all, I’d say Greta Gerwig’s creation is a treat to watch. This can be the next movie on your watchlist.


**** 4 Stars