Flix at :48: Barbie
Come on, Barbie. Let's go party! I participated in "Barbenheimer" last week like many other people, and the most joyful part of this long double-header was the PG-13 comedy Barbie.
Director and co-writer Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2017) still applies her awkward, clumsy, likeable style of humor, but in this film adorns it with lavish dream houses, pink costumes and elaborate production numbers.
Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, 2016) plays the stereotypical Barbie living in the magical Barbieland where every day is filled with her fellow Barbies playing on the beach during the day and enjoying dance parties at night. But when our main Barbie notices changes in her body and her thoughts, she ventures into the real world to find her owner and resolve this identity crisis.
This film is one half a plucky coming-of-age story and one half a battle of the sexes musical comedy. Like the wide-eyed Will Ferrell film Elf (2003) meets a flirty Doris Day romance from the 1950s or 60s (let's say Pillow Talk, 1959).
Having such a simple premise for this story, Barbie could easily present a shallow view on the importance of womanhood without any real emotional substance. (Like a 90-minute tour of the expensive/attractive objects an iconic woman needs to remain gorgeous and successful.)
But it turns out to be surprisingly complex in describing the contradicting standards for current-day women and facing criticism from younger generations. (Maybe some symbols of womanhood aren't so timeless.)
Margot Robbie has plenty of fun with her performance as a sheltered half-grown woman forced to recognize her own mediocrity while simultaneously saying goodbye to her innocence. Isn't that a similar story for lots of women today?
This character arc is something Greta Gerwig does charmingly well in her own past acting performances like Frances Ha (2012) and Damsels in Distress (2011). Ryan Gosling (First Man, 2018) also gives an engaging performance as Barbie's constant plus one, Ken. His animated ignorance and frustrated self confidence land hilariously between a parody of hyper-masculinity and an imitation of baseless patriarchal privilege.
Because of our current political climate, with women's rights being a hot-button issue, these lead performances almost feel like a direct (and thankfully funny) social commentary on the enduring failures of gender equality.
The way the fantasy world of Barbieland is connected to the real world is not explained clearly or with any capacity for me. So the parts with Barbieland and the real world blending felt confusing and unresolved.
This isn't the movie of the year (since Barbie was never a part of my childhood), but it made me laugh and made me feel like I was part of an inclusive spirited party.
"Barbenheimer" was like a two course meal. The first part of the meal, Oppenheimer, was like a fat meaty steak (large and time-consuming requiring many bites to finish), and Barbie was like a slice of fluffy chocolate cake with sugary frosting and colorful sprinkles.
Both courses were filling in different ways.
And since we've seen the enormous box office earnings of Barbie, everyone should be reminded you don't need Tom Cruise saving the world to get people into the movie theater.