As reviews of “Barbie” came in ahead of its opening weekend, a critical divide emerged.
Some thought Greta Gerwig, the acclaimed director of “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” met expectations for a more subversive take on the 11.5-inch Mattel phenomenon. They thought Gerwig’s script, which she collaborated on with her partner, Noah Baumbach, managed to acknowledge the criticisms the Barbie brand has received over the years – including unrealistic representations of women’s bodies and, until recent years, a lack of diversity in its collection – while presenting a comedy that leans into the delightful weirdness of the Barbie universe. Others felt that the director did not go far enough in catering to her corporate sponsors, keeping the criticisms of consumerism and female beauty standards at a surface level.
Critics tended to be united in their praise of the film’s stars, on the other hand, celebrating the surprising emotional depth of Margot Robbie as the so-called stereotypical Barbie who embarks on a striking journey outside the world of the carefully produced dolls, as well as that of Ryan Gosling. unbridled comedy as Ken who rejoices in his discovery of the patriarchy.
Read on for some highlights.
‘Barbie’ May Be the Most Subversive Hit of the 21st Century [Rolling Stone]
The film does more than avoid delivering a two-hour commercial for Mattel, David Fear writes, suggesting the film could be “the most subversive blockbuster of the 21st century yet.”
“This is a saga of self-realization, filtered through both the spirit of free play and the sense that it’s not all fun and games in the real world — the story of a doll who continually drifts into ‘Dollhouse’ territory,” Timo writes. “This is a movie that wants to have its Dream House and burn it to the ground, too.”
We Shouldn’t be Grading Barbie on a Curve [Vulture]
In one of the most critical reviews of the film’s approach to gender politics, Alison Willmore writes that “it is not a rebuke of corporatized feminism so much as an update”, noting “a succession of defensiveness towards ‘Barbie’, as if it were trying.” anticipate and acknowledge any criticisms made against it before they are made.”
“To be a movie fan these days is to be aware that franchises and cinematic universes and remakes and other adaptations of old IP have become black holes that swallow up artists, leaving you to hope desperately that they might emerge with the rare project that, even though it comes from constricting boundaries, still feels like it was made by a person,” she writes. “’Barbie’ certainly was. But the problem with trying to sneak subversive ideas into a project so fundamentally compromised is that, rather than succeeding with something, you might just create a new way for a brand to sell itself.”
There are limits to how much dimension even Greta Gerwig can give this trademark material [New York Times]
Manohla Dargis, the chief film critic for The Times, offers high praise to Gerwig as a director, writing that her “directorial command is so fluent that she seems born to filmmaking”, but she claims that the film largely avoided the “thorny contradictions and the criticisms , which cling to the doll.”
“Although Gerwig does throw in a few criticisms — like when a teenage girl accuses Barbie of promoting consumerism, shortly before she befriends our heroine — these feel more like mere winks to the adults in the audience than anything else,” Dargis. writes
The life of a doll is richly, unexpectedly imagined by Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie [The Chicago Tribune]
“Any $145 million movie based on a doll, accessories sold separately, undoubtedly comes with some limitations,” Michael Phillips writes. “And yet this one actually feels spontaneous and fun.” Giving the film a 3.5 out of 4 starts, he claims that Mattel “could play things a lot safer” and that “many of the biggest laughs in ‘Barbie’ come at Mattel’s expense.”
Ryan Gosling is fantastic in a rag doll comedy [The Guardian]
Peter Bradshaw was among the critics who felt that Gosling stole the show with Barbie herself reduced to the “bland comic foil”. He was in the more cynical camp of reviewers when it came to the film’s self-awareness, calling the film “entertaining and amiable, but with a gentle tug of punches: a lightly ironed, celebratory nostalgia for a toy that still exists today.”
Welcome to Greta Gerwig’s very funny, feminist Dreamhouse [Entertainment Weekly]
Describing the film as “full of winking one-liners”, Devan Coggan acknowledges Gosling’s praise but maintains that Robbie “remains the real star.”
“Physically, the blonde Australian actress already looks like she stepped out of a Mattel box (something the film itself plays up during one particular gag), but she gives an impressive transformational performance,” she writes, “moving her arms and joints like they do. are actually made of plastic. Robbie brought a manic physicality to previous films including ‘Babylon’ and ‘Birds of Prey,’ but she now embraces physical comedy to the max.”
Greta Gerwig’s World of Plastic Is Amazing [Collider]
Ross Bonaime writes that “Barbie” could have been “little more than a toy ad”, but it instead became “an existential look at the difficulties of being a woman, the terrible nature of life in general, the understanding that trying to be perfect is absurd, while also encapsulating everything Barbie has meant to people – both good and bad.”
Calling Gerwig’s work behind the camera “vibrant and daring,” Bonaime also praises the narrative work of the pop star-studded soundtrack, which includes songs by Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice.
Margot Robbie doll-ivers [Los Angeles Times]
Describing the film as a “conceptually playful, sartorially dazzling comic fantasy,” Justin Chang suggests that “Barbie” manages to make the case for both Barbie haters and Barbie lovers.
“Gerwig invented ‘Barbie’ as a bubblegum emulsion of silliness and sophistication, an image that promotes and subverts her own brand,” he writes. “It doesn’t just mean renewing the endless ‘Barbie: good or bad?’ a debate It wants to realize that debate, vigorously arguing both positions for the better part of two fast-moving, furiously multitasking hours.”