With the film “Barbie” Greta Gerwig once again proves that she belongs to a small group of the best in contemporary cinematography. Only she knew how to create a comedic, exaggerated world of the most famous doll in history to tell about reality and make you think. And Margot Robbie as the “stereotypical” Barbie has much more to offer than a beautiful smile. “Barbie” from Friday in cinemas.
The Barbie doll appeared in 1959. It was invented by the American Ruth Handler based on the German Lilli doll. The woman noticed that her daughter, Barbara, was playing with paper dolls, which she gave the roles of adults. Handler pointed out that there are mainly baby dolls on the market. She understood that there was a need to create a doll that resembled an adult person. She filled that gap by co-founding Mattel with her husband and selling 350,000 copies of the iconic toy in its first year. To this day, Barbie is one of the best-selling dolls in the world.
This is the shortest way to recall the story of Barbie, which, along with the growing popularity, aroused more and more criticism. Due to the fact that the doll reflected the unrealistic proportions of the female body, over time it became a symbol of the objectification and far-reaching sexualization of women, thoughtless consumerism and the promotion of an ideal of beauty detached from reality, which may be the cause of eating disorders.
Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig. What is the movie about?
Barbie’s “empire” began to grow. In 1987, the first animated TV movie featuring a doll appeared. Only since 2000, 40 full-length animated films about the adventures of Barbie have been created.
However, it should be emphasized that Greta Gerwig’s latest film “Barbie”, which will hit Polish cinemas on July 21, has nothing to do with the aforementioned animated productions. Of course, except for the figure of the doll itself. The 39-year-old filmmaker wrote the script together with Noah Baumbach, a respected director, screenwriter and film producer (and privately her partner). The script itself is admirable. The story they invented is based on a simple structure through which the viewers are guided by the narrator – played by Helen Mirren. The action takes place both in the fictional world of Barbieland and in the real Los Angeles.
What is the movie about? Let’s start with the producer’s description: “Barbie is experiencing a crisis that makes her question the meaning of her world and who she is.” I won’t reveal more about the plot. Why? This supposedly simple story, closed in the comedy formula, is filled to the brim with various plot twists, references to film classics, mocking situations and texts. Summarizing the plot would be unfair to those who are going to see the movie.
“Barbie” pushes further boundaries
What then can be revealed? For example, the fact that Gerwig’s idea of Barbieland is a utopian world in which various Barbie dolls have full power. Because in the end, as Mirren says in the introduction: “Thanks to Barbie, all feminist and equal rights problems have been solved.” Here the days pass the same: everyone is happy, smiling, greeting each other, happily spending time. However, this idyll cannot last forever. After all, Gerwig has shown many times that when she takes up a topic, she plays with it on her own terms, rarely adhering to established norms. Just mention herSmall women” from 2019. The classic novel by Louisa May Alcott has given completely new meanings.
From the first scene of “Barbie” you can get the impression that Gerwig invites us to play with dolls together. It’s not fun for fun’s sake, though. Gerwig pushes further boundaries – if only through ambiguous, sometimes biting dialogues and retorts. He looks at the modern world and makes you think. It does not directly judge and does not attack patriarchy, consumerism and social inequalities directly. Instead, it highlights their absurdity while leaving it up to the audience how to interpret them. He does it with a sense of humor, which makes the screening not only great fun, but also an intellectual journey, often rooted in nostalgic references.
In one scene, when asked if men are getting patriarchy in the times of the #MeToo movement, a (film) Mattel executive replies: “He’s fine, we just disguise ourselves better.” In another scene, a rank-and-file worker asks, “I have no authority, am I a woman?”
Ryan Gosling in the shadow of Margot Robbie
The visual side of the film – sets, costumes, stylizations, photos – can delight not only Barbie fans. The cast is also noteworthy. Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Helen Mirren, Dua Lipa, Will Ferrell, Nicola Coughlan, Kate McKinnon, John Cena, Michael Cera and Hari Nef – these are just the opening credits that appear on the screen.
The strength of the cast, however, is not the cast itself, but the roles in which the actors appear. America Ferrera, whose role as Betty in the American version of “Ugly” brought international fame, in “Barbie” plays an ordinary mother, an average woman who is fully satisfied with her ordinary life. The casting of Hari Nef – the first openly transgender model signed to a major modeling agency – as one of the Barbie dolls is also noteworthy.
While the information that Robbie and Gosling will play the main roles caused a lot of controversy, after watching “Barbie” it’s hard to imagine that these characters could have been created by someone else. 33-year-old Robbie impresses from the very beginning. Her Barbie is complicated, far from the stereotypical, thoughtless empty doll whose existence would come down to being beautiful. Stereotypical Barbie – because that’s exactly what Robbie’s character is called – has her own opinion, asks questions, is strong, aware of her role and existence in an imaginary world.
The opposite of this Barbie is Ken, played by Gosling, whose existence comes down to attracting Barbie’s attention. In a way, he is also the epitome of narcissistic, toxic masculinity. The actor goes to great lengths to keep up with Robbie’s level, but still remains in her shadow. This, of course, does not mean that Gosling fared badly on the screen. Contrary to appearances, this is one of his best roles. It just means Robbie steals the show. Even the film’s narrator jokes about her charm. Because Gerwig is well aware that Hollywood stars often promote unrealistic standards of beauty.
“Barbie” is one of this year’s most anticipated movie premieres. Gerwig had to face a huge challenge: to use Barbie and the associations associated with it in a way that does not fall into trash, and at the same time create something original, engaging and smart. She succeeded. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen.
The 64-year-old doll was supposed to convince girls that they can be who they want to be. “Barbie” Gerwig argues that, like Barbie, you can be anything you want, but there is nothing wrong with being an ordinary person.
Main photo source: Warner Bros. Pictures