There is an art-stopping moment in this mischievous merger of myth and reality where the beautiful Margot Robbie sobs that she is no longer beautiful.
Here director Greta Gerwig makes a voice intervention to say the above self-criticism is invalid since Margot Robbie is the one saying it.
Self-awareness and inhouse jokes form a major and decisive chunk of the narrative .
Not having played with Barbie dolls I am not as familiar with this Pink Goddess’ various avatars as the girls of all ages in the theatre who laughed and giggled each time a new Barbie was introduced . They got the point before the uninitiated .
Damn! Basically the great great Greta Gerwig(who’s the better filmmaker, Gerwig or her husband Noah Baumbach who has co-written Barbie with his wife?) enters the very plastic very pink, very feminine world of Barbie dolls, and subverts the fairytale perfection to tell us that children must not follow the ideals of Barbieland: it can be severely damaging to the selfesteem.
Nothing gets seriously damaged in Ms Gerwig’s wonderfully unreal(not to be mistaken for surreal) world , populated by various Barbies and Kens, the chief among them being the ones played by the gorgeous Margot Robbie and the sporting Ryan Gosling. The latter plays a startling amusing version of the macho characters he played in his earlier films.
Gosling’s Ken is insecure and a closet sexist. It all comes tumbling out when he accompanies Barbie to the real world where she must find the girl who is mind-fucking her “stereotype doll” image.The fantasy-reality alternate worlds merge into one another.
Now we see the dolls in their natural habitat(Barbieland). Now we see them in our world where Barbie undergoes a reductive meltdown.
It is as if the Mattl- manufactured doll merges into Ibsen’s universe. Greta Gerwig’s immaculately imagined world is trippy and treacly.At one point we meet the woman who invented the Barbie doll. Somehow the moments of epiphany are not as rousing as they should be. It is , to put it paradoxically, a very real vision of an very unreal world.
Joining the muted merger of myth and feminism is a Spanish-American woman Gloria(America Ferrera) and her eye-rolling teenage daughter Sasha(Ariana Greenblatt).
Barbie brings the mother-daughter from the real world to Barbieland. At this point the airy tongue-in-cheek screenplay doesn’t know what to do with them. Quickly the screenplay floats from fey to forced as Ken , enamoured of the prevalent patriarchy that he has witnessed in the realworld, plots to take over Barbieland from the ladies.
This is all very politically vibrant and pointedly, sometimes way to self consciously woke.At one point when Barbie finds a bunch of men in the real world leering at her , she reminds them she has no vagina. At the end she is shown visiting a gynecologist’s clinic, presumably for a sexual identity.
The journey from plastic to paushtik(wholesome) is thereby completed. Ah men!