When a film receives promotional treatment like that enjoyed by Greta Gerwig’s Barbie in recent months, we run the risk of raising expectations that are impossible to meet. Even before its release, Barbie was already called a great feminist film.
However, it was almost impossible, despite the most excessive hype, to really know what this feature film, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, in the roles of Barbie and Ken, would be made of. The feminist seal was attached to it in large part because of the filmmaker, who notably gave us Lady Bird and Little Women.
To the important question “Can Barbie be a feminist figure?” we answer yes, after watching Gerwig’s feature film. To the other important question “Is this a good movie?” the answer is fortunately always the same.
Very early on, the director highlights the contradiction represented by Barbie. Because his film does not seek to flee the well-founded criticisms that can be addressed to the doll created in the 1950s (or at least to its creators). While accepting that Barbie has several weaknesses, including her unrealistic body proportions, she is indeed made into a feminist icon in this film.
And everything Barbie represents in this feature film is impeccably rendered thanks to Margot Robbie’s acting. The Australian bursts the screen. Above all, it makes this Barbie very endearing, as complex as it is seemingly superficial, and ultimately gives great sensitivity to her plastic character.
After a prodigious scene inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, where young girls give up their baby dolls (which force them to take on the role of “moms”) by discovering the Barbie (a female doll who exercises a panoply of professions), the film develops in the fantastic Barbie Land.
“Because of Barbie, all the issues around feminism and gender equality have been resolved,” says the narrator (Helen Mirren, who will be heard at a few key moments in the film) in the opening scene, not without sarcasm. “At least that’s what they think of Barbie Land. »
There, everything is perfect. Margot Robbie’s Barbie, stereotypical Barbie (!), lives in her house without a front wall, brushes her hair without touching it, showers without water, always wears high heels and, even without shoes, walks on her tiptoes.
In Barbie Land, we find the Barbie president (Issa Rae), the Barbie doctor (Hari Nef), the Barbie physicist (Emma Mackey)… There are also the Kens, including the one who comes with the stereotypical Barbie, played by Ryan Gosling. The Kens (including Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Scott Evans) are pretty useless. They have no real function, talent or power in this society.
We often burst out laughing when we discover how the director (helped for the script by her companion Noah Baumbach) has brought to the screen this world that only exists in the imagination of millions of children.
So what is Barbie all about? One night of a party (every night is party night, then sleepover, at Barbie Land), stereotypical Barbie asks the other Barbies and Ken if they ever think about death. The next day, things get worse: her non-existent milk has expired, her waterless shower is cold, her skin is no longer perfect, but above all, oh woe! his feet have gone flat!
With the help of the tasty quirky Barbie character (awesome Kate McKinnon), she decides to head out into the real world to figure out what’s causing all these problems. It is the child who plays with her who is at the root of the dysfunctions, we explain to her. And because he is deeply codependent, Ken is embedded in the journey.
It’s once in Los Angeles, in real life, that Greta Gerwig’s feminist criticism is most heard, even if it is hardly revolutionary. There, Barbie discovers that she is considered an object by men and that they rule the world. With many clichés, which are not unrealistic, however, we are depicted Barbie’s disillusionment with a society where being a woman makes life more difficult.
Ken, for his part, discovers the patriarchy. This will (of course) have disastrous consequences.
Barbie goes through her existential crisis with teenage Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), who once adored Barbies and now repudiates them and her mother, Gloria (America Ferrera).
Ken, in the film, feels oppressed in a world where he has no say. Ken then uses his learnings about toxic masculinity in the human world to turn things around at Barbie Land. Ken, finally, is pitied and forgiven, having only been cruel because he was hurt (allow us to roll our eyes here).
Ken, all things considered, takes up way (too much) space in this film called Barbie. That’s our biggest complaint about this otherwise highly entertaining, witty, and very funny film.
The film’s last line, spoken by Barbie, which we won’t repeat here (you’ll have to see the film!), captures the spirit of Greta Gerwig well, as well as the intent of her feature film. This sentence even reconciled us with the last moments of the film, which we liked less. Let’s just say that this finale is pure (pink) candy.