Arts & Entertainment

Much-anticipated ‘Barbie’ delivers laughs, heart, societal critique

By Guillermo Azabal

Los Angeles, Jul 19 (EFE).- The excitement and anticipation surrounding certain Hollywood films make them a media phenomena well before their global premiere.

Such has been the case with “Barbie,” a new movie directed by Greta Gerwig that is eagerly awaited both by fans of the curvy, adult-figured doll and those indifferent to Mattel’s iconic toy.

Starring Margot Robbie as Sterotypical Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, the film debuts in most parts of the world between Wednesday and Friday.

All signs point to “Barbie” becoming one of the year’s biggest box-office smashes, even though the Hollywood actors’ strike has put a damper on that fantasy comedy’s final week of promotion.

Tenderness, doses of humor and a profound critique of societally imposed gender roles merge in a film that spotlights the creative vision of Gerwig, a director who made her mark as an actress, writer and co-director of mumblecore movies, a sub-genre of independent film.

The American filmmaker later enjoyed remarkable success as the director of the coming-of-age dramas “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” both of which earned best-picture Oscar nominations.

A film with a $145 million budget, “Barbie” is the latest of around 30 film or television productions that have brought Mattel’s famed doll to life.

The previous screen adaptations were animated, starting with the 1987 television special “Barbie and the Rockers: Out of This World.”

The film is “hilarious, smart and heart-filled and deeper than one expects a Barbie movie to be,” actress America Ferrera, who plays a Mattel employee who helps Barbie after she leaves the utopic Barbieland and enters the real world, said in an interview with Efe prior to the film’s premiere.

The film’s nods to classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and its creative and original narrative structure (with scenes in both Barbieland and the real world) are some of the strengths of a film that aims to transmit a message of inclusion.

At the heart of the picture is a central question or debate.

Has the Barbie doll historically served to spread a can-do message through its hundreds of career iterations, from astronaut to news anchor to presidential candidate?

Or has it instead served mainly to promote unrealistic and even cruel beauty standards among young girls?

Nearly 65 years after Ruth Handler – Mattel’s late co-founder and Barbie’s creator – first put the doll on the market, Gerwig’s film reflects on questions related to the depiction of the female form, empowerment and toxic masculinity.

And in fact, even though the film is co-produced by Mattel Films, one character – Sasha (played by Arianna Greenblat) even slams the Barbie doll as a tool of “sexualized capitalism” that “set the feminist movement back years.”

“It’s undeniable that (Barbie) is a very dominant, iconic figure in culture and she shapes a lot of how young women and girls grow up. And to be a part of the narrative of this iconic figure, expanding and including more of us, I think is a significant and wonderful shift for Barbie,” the 39-year-old Ferrera, an American actress born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents, told Efe.

The screenplay co-written by Gerwig and her partner and frequent collaborator, Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”), explores different socially significant themes while the numerous Barbie variants are a constant source of laughs.

During the nearly two-hour film, President Barbie (Issa Rae), Dr. Barbie (Hari Nef), Writer Barbie (Alexandra Shipp), Lawyer Barbie (Sharon Rooney) and even Mermaid Barbie (Dua Lipa) interact, often to amusing effect, with the different versions of Ken played by Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans and Gosling.

And of course, Barbieland does not disappoint.

Related Articles

Back to top button