Barbie is bright and colorful on the outside, but a full on journey through self acceptance and discovery on the inside.
Here’s the thing, I knew that Barbie was going to be a good movie. Not just from the trailers, but because of who is in the movie and behind the movie. This film was always going to be entertaining, but I didn’t expect it to basically be a therapy session for me. I truly feel that this is a film everyone needs to see, as it is likely to send them all down a path of self acceptance, self discovery, and learning their worth.
Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Barbie would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in both unions.
Barbie is so much more than a visually stunning movie filled with bright colors, incredible costumes, and pop style. It is completely unafraid to dive into the way that women (and men, too) are treated in the real world. Life isn’t all fun and games. It just isn’t. Greta Gerwig takes her talent a writer and director and dumps it into this film. The cast is perfectly chosen.
While Margot Robbie is certainly phenomenal as Barbie, it is Ryan Gosling’s Ken that steals the show. He goes on his own journey of self discovery in Barbie, as he tries to learn who he is. He might stumble along the way, but ultimately he figures himself out. It is very obvious that he poured his heart and soul into this role. He does a great job with the emotional beats, while still pulling off the himbo role at times. And don’t even get me started on his song, because it is a bop that I already have playing on repeat.
Barbie Was Therapy For Me
While there was a lot about this movie that I could personally relate to, including Barbie’s journey towards learning more about herself and who she is, it is Gloria ( America Ferrera) and her relationship with her daughter, Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), that truly meant something to me. I have two daughters that are nearing their teenage years and it can be a struggle at times. We have all been there.
Often it is hard to relate to them, and I think about the days when we would play Barbies together. We still have quite a few and after I take them to see this movie, I am secretly hoping they ask me to pull them out and have a little play session, because I will happily oblige.
The entire movie was like therapy for me. It was emotional as I often struggle with thoughts about how I look. There are days I just don’t feel pretty anymore and am down on myself. Barbie more or less details that everyone has days like this, and while I certainly know that, it is nice to see it on the screen.
There were many moments where I shed some tears. Heck, sometimes I flat out sobbed. The majority of these moments were surrounding Gloria. I am Gloria. I wish I was a Barbie sometimes, but I am proud to be a Gloria. Barbie helped me to realize that.
Barbie Is Also Hilarious
Greta Gerwig did a great job of taking those emotional moments and moving me from tears to laughs. Barbie is also hilarious. Some of the jokes are more “adult” — like the Beach Off lines — but I still feel strongly that this is a movie younger audiences can (and will) enjoy as well. My daughters and 10 and 12 and I will absolutely be bringing them to see it. In fact, I am looking forward to sharing a lot of the moments with them.
Some of the punch lines, which I will refrain from saying because I don’t want to ruin the surprise, hit me right in the funny bone. As a die-hard *NSYNC fan, I was pleased that they had a little bit of representation in the movie. And we all know that a certain group of people online (particularly on twitter) can be insufferable, so to have a dig at them had me in tears from laughing so hard!
Margot Robbie is more the emotional part of the story, while Ryan Gosling is the humor side of it. However, both actors hit both the comedic and emotional beats perfectly. I couldn’t help but support Ken at times, and feel for him, as I saw the pain in his eyes. He lives for Barbie in this movie, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, and she takes him for granted.
Michael Cera’s Allan and Will Ferrell’s Mattel CEO offered quite a bit of the comedic relief as well. Probably my only complaint about Barbie is that they were not in enough, but I do realize that they were in it just the right amount for the roles — I just really enjoyed them both.
Details The History Of Barbie
Not only does this movie deliver a heartfelt story that will put viewers through a therapy session while simultaneously causing them to crack up, it also details the history of Barbie. Talk about nostalgia, there are a whole lot of references to Barbies of the past in this movie. If you are a Barbie fan, chances are you will see your favorite doll in this movie.
It also gives credit to the creator, Ruth Handler, who named Barbie after her daughter, Barbara. It plays the right amount of homage to her, without overdoing it.
Do I think that Barbie is too overly preachy about how women are treated? No. But I can see how some people would feel that way. Gloria has a monologue that caused my critic screening to actually applaud and cheer (which is very rare). That was an extremely powerful moment for me. That is when I felt seen. And I felt heard.
That being said, I can see how some might feel it was said too well. What do I mean by that? Well, simply that instead of subtly implying it, they hit the nail right on the head and came out and said it. I appreciated it. Not everyone will.
I have also seen some complaining about the way men are treated and portrayed in Barbie. However, all you need to do is watch to the end to realize that things are actually very equal in this movie. It might seem extremely pro-women, but it is more pro-treating other human beings with respect.
My issue with Barbie are so minimal and basically obsolete that I don’t feel they take away from the film. For me, it is a powerful, inspiring, emotional, hilarious journey that I plan to go on again and again. Whenever I need a good cry, I am going to look to Barbie.
Ryan Gosling is coming for that Oscar. And he better get it.
Rating: 5 out of 5
To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.