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Barbie Review: Of Pluck, Pinkness And Patriarchy Bashing

Last updated on: July 21, 2023 18:12 IST

Delving into deeper topics, fleshing out a timely satire, rooting for womanhood while being full of beans, dance, music, charm and comedy, Greta Gerwig's creativity knows no bounds, applauds Sukanya Verma.

Young women are constantly figuring out ways to be themselves and nothing else in a world trying to curb their spirit in Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age gems.

This time, her focus is a doll, not just any doll, but an iconic companion from many a little girl's childhood whose candy-coloured confidence and bombshell curves drew more scrutiny and scorn as the years passed by than the innocent joy of formative years they had brought along.

More than its peddling of 'You can be anything' ideals for capitalist gains and brazen promotion of unrealistic standards of beauty, Barbie's enduring foible is its reputation as a low IQ toy. But as long as the sales figures looked alright, nobody messed up the status quo.


Gerwig takes Barbie out of the box, out of her heels and encourages her to move on, and chart the course of her life as she deems worthy.

It's a choice she's never known as a doll until human thoughts invade her brain and bring her face to face with her owner and creator.

Designed for play, party and perfection, mortality is an unheard term in Barbie Land until Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) stumbles upon it as well as her suddenly flat feet.

What if life in plastic isn't so fantastic after all?

Seemingly, the answer to her existential queries lie outside her impeccably diverse and self-sufficient world running in the pinkest of health by fellow Barbies including a president, a lawyer, a Nobel Prize winner, a discontinued pregnant edition and a wonky one referred to as Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon is a hoot).

Fine-tuned in a matriarchal set-up, the Kens of Barbie Land happily play second fiddle and exist only to fulfill heteronormative consumer expectations, which makes the presence of the solitary Allan (Michael Cera) a lot more significant if also a little sad.

Once we get a lowdown of how things work alongside a gorgeous tour into its bubble-gum hued architecture and sartorial delights, it's time for Barbie and Ken (Ryan Gosling) to hit the road and set out in the Real World where big boss Mattel's all-male committee (led by a reliably droll Will Ferrell) scrambles to put them back in the box.

Amidst these misadventures, Barbie discovers sexism and sisterhood (America Ferrera delivering THE speech of the year) whereas Ken comes across patriarchy resulting in reversal of roles at Barbie Land.

Where Robbie's warm vulnerability holds its own against her overwhelming beauty, scene-stealer Gosling's fetching portrayal, swooning antics and groovy dancer build a strong case for Kenenergy to outlive Barbenheimer.

Mostly though, Gerwig and her partner and co-writer Noah Baumbach have a field day packing in the punches, pluck, pinkness and patriarchy bashing zingers at a breakneck speed in Barbie's thoughtful confection that takes pride in its pastels and plastic that’s anything but skin deep.

Chuckles come in good measure over relentless comic barbs directed at Mattel.

Although the jokes are certainly self-aware, given the project has the multinational brand's blessings and money, yet shrewd enough to realise humour is a double-edged sword -- a feat Gerwig achieves a lot more boldly than Ben Affleck's Air dares.

Delving into deeper topics, fleshing out a timely satire, rooting for womanhood while being full of beans, dance, music, charm and comedy, Gerwig's creativity knows no bounds doffing her hat at everyone from Stanley Kubrick and Peter Weir to Jacques Demy and Jacques Tati for inspiration.

Back in the 1990s, Barry Levinson's obscure satirical fantasy Toys, boasting of cutting-edge set design, took on toxic masculinity through the medium of toys. What was missing was a lightness of touch that would turn its 'fighting fire with marshmallows' ardour in a movie ahead of its times.

Gerwig possesses this gift in abundance.

She is brilliantly in the moment, looks back in time with a judicious mix of cheer and cynicism while keeping in mind the bigger picture.

One couldn't ask for a better representative to their revolution, person or plastic.

Barbie Review Rediff Rating: