Onto the second big release of the weekend and it was a Saturday movie marathon for me having watched Oppenheimer and Barbie back to back! And straight up, Barbie had a massive task up its sleeves – to follow up on the brilliance of Oppenheimer. But firstly a shoutout to the PR teams of Oppenheimer and Barbie for coming up with innovative media campaigns that did prompt the viewers to opt for both the new releases. Just imagine hypothetically, if Bahubali and KGF had released on the same day! The pandemonium would have been through the roof(although realistically this won’t be possible in India due to the number of theatres which are much fewer than in the US).
I was in school when I was introduced to the Barbie song, a spin off on the Barbie doll which was almost a status symbol for most young girls in the 90s. And honestly, I was quiet envious of the fact given that a doll was that one toy which I did not have(and I was too shy to ask given that boys are programmed and taught not to play with dolls). Seldom did I think then that I would get to watch a film based on the famous doll from the 90s. And the thought of the film Barbie did make me curious on what it had to offer. The hype around the weekend was huge given the clash of the titans, and I just had to venture out to watch Barbie as my second pick of the weekend. So then is Barbie worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Barbie follows the story of Barbie and Ken who live their happy lives in the fantasy ‘Barbie-land’ until a turn of events force them to visit the real world that does change the way they look at life. The story here is glossy and quirky with a searing commentary on the prevalent patriarchy that is prevalent in the society. But at the same time, the story is a niche given its narrative style which specifically targeted towards the fairer gender(and possibly of a specific age demographic too for most parts). In other words, the story is an acquired taste and not for everyone. The screenplay standing at a shade under 2 hours does make for an enjoyable watch with has its doses of dry humour along with scenes of social commentary.
The drama does open with the introduction of the protagonist, a stereotypical Barbie who is happily settled in a fantasy world of Barbie-land, with other Barbies for company. The law of the land is mainly matriarchal while only barely being connected to the real world, in the form of toys owned by different girls. The general perception of Barbie is to make young girls feel happy and confident, all of which would come crashing down in the drama. She has Ken for company who is head over heels for her much to her dismay. The conflict in the film is introduced once the characters have to move away from their pinkland where reality check awaits them.
The proceedings here are entertaining and enjoyable despite being frivolous in nature. The writers do well in providing a searing social commentary on the plight of women in the real world which was a stark contrast to that in the barbieland. It did give the viewers a sneak peek into what a world ruled by women could achieve which would be mostly free of hate while being easy going throughout. The writers go a step further in questioning the employees of the Mattel company who produce the Barbie and Ken toys where not a single office bearer is a woman. And there are hints to show that women aren’t quite happy in the real world although there is an acceptance of fate. This until the tables turn once again in the Barbieland.
The issues that women face with respect to the opposite gender is well addressed through the story. But along with that, the insecurities related to looks is also addressed while underlying the fact that one should accept ourselves the way we are! The final act is hilarious that sets the cat amongst the pigeons as far as a few of the characters are concerned leading up to a fun filled but poignant final act that also has a sense of nostalgia. Overall, the screenplay is a niche but quite smartly penned that does ask some pertinent questions amidst the outer frivolous and plastic appearance!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are well penned including a Kartik Aaryan-esque monologue in the final act which was great to witness(a view from the other side). The music is excellent and captures the ultra-positive vibe of the film wonderfully well. The BGM is stunning and enhances multiple scenes. The cinematography is excellent capturing some wonderfully colourful frames. But the art design is even better with different shades of pink dominating the various frames. The editing is sharp as well. Director Greta Gerwig does a magnificent job and it triggers a whole new discussion of how we need more female directors to provide a glimpse of the world from the other side. Her ability to spin off a social commentary amidst some quirky and fun sequences was a skill in itself and it made for a wonderful viewing.
The performances are electrifying by the stellar cast. Rhea Perlman as Ruth adds a tinge of nostalgia to her character. Will Ferrell as Mattel CEO is a delight to watch and he does a fabulous job. America Ferrera as Gloria is wonderful to watch in a well defined role. In a film dominated by females, the performance of the film came from Ryan Gosling who is absolutely brilliant as Ken. His mannerisms and body language contribute to the humour in his character and he takes you on a memorable ride through the different shades of his character. And it was a bold professional decision given that no mainstream actor would generally have the b*lls to portray this character. Margot Robbie as Barbie looks so pretty and does a swell job particularly when she is vulnerable. Her anxieties and insecurities are spot on and it makes for a brilliant watch. Needless to say, she has my heart(move aside Ken!….LOL). Come Barbie, let’s go party!
Barbie isn’t plastic, she is fantastic in a drama that is a glossy representation of matriarchy with dollops of frivolous humour and pink! Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended!