Greta Gerwig turns this film adaptation of Mattel’s line of dolls and turns it into a deconstruction of what it means to be a woman


Release Date: July 21, 2023
Runtime: 01:54
Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence.

Table of Contents

The signature doll from Mattel hits the big screen with . In Barbieland, Barbie () lives a perfect existence with President Barbie (Issa Rae), author Barbie (), physicist Barbie (), and doctor Barbie (Hari Nef). Barbie is the unrequited object of affection of Ken (), who has to compete with Ken (Simu Liu), Ken (), and Ken (). During a choreographed dance party at her Dream House, Barbie begins to have an existential crisis when she thinks about death.

Barbie seeks the help of Weird Barbie (), who tells her that something has happened in the real world to influence Barbie's life in Barbieland. Barbie ends up escaping into Los Angeles, where she receives assistance from Mattel employee Gloria (America Ferrera) and her teenage daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt). However, Barbie's arrival in the real world alarms the Mattel CEO (), who fears the consequences of Barbie (and Ken's) interactions with humanity.

Barbie Synopsis

Barbie is a film based on the long-running line of dolls from Mattel directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women), based on a screenplay written by Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach. Narrated by , the film opens with a parody of the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, before showing Margot Robbie as the stereotypical blonde Barbie's perfect life in Barbieland. However, when Barbie starts having thoughts on death, it disrupts her perfect existence and she must travel into the real world to find the child responsible.

Meanwhile, Ken is frustrated that he doesn't get enough attention from Barbie. Stowing away on Barbie's trip into the real world, Ken is surprised on how differently men are treated here. He brings these discoveries back to Barbieland, which has unforeseen consequences.

My Thoughts on Barbie

On the surface, Barbie is a film that is following in the footsteps of Hasbro's Transformers and G.I. Joe films as a way for Mattel to cash in on their most popular brand, which first launched in 1959. However, Greta Gerwig makes the smart move of acknowledging that Barbie hasn't always been a positive role model for women, providing an unattainable representation of beauty.

As such, Barbie becomes a deconstruction of what it means to be a women. One of the key scenes of the films sees America Ferrera's Grace listing off the many contradicting ways women are expected to present themselves in society. While most of the Barbie's in Barbieland are played by a diverse cast with many different professions, Margot Robbie's Barbie is always referenced to as the stereotypical one, which in some ways is what leads to her existential crisis.

However, Barbie also features a very prominent subplot for Ken, who undergoes his own crisis due to Barbie not reciprocating his feeling for her. Ryan Gosling is quite good in the film playing Ken as somewhat of an absentminded doofus, who only really knows how to “beach.” Gosling even gets to show off his singing skills by (hilariously) serenading Barbie with Matchbox Twenty's 1997 single “Push,” as well as a full-on Broadway-style musical number, which is arguably one of the best songs of the entire film.

While most of the characters in Barbie are different versions of Barbie and Ken, there are a few other characters that show up in the film, in reference to the variety that appeared on the toy line. First there's Emerald Fennell as Barbie's pregnant friend Midge, whose appearances in the background turn into a recurring gag, as the doll was discontinued. More prominent is as Ken's buddy Allan, who is heavily hinted to be homosexual.

Barbie is only Greta Gerwig's third directorial credit (fourth if you count her co-director credit with Joe Swanberg on the 2008 mumblecore film Nights and Weekends), but she has already established herself as an incredibly talented filmmaker. Gerwig helps turn Barbie into much more than just a toy commercial and it is definitely a film that is worth watching, even if you hate everything to do with Barbie.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.