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She's Everything. He's Just Ken.
To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.
If you listen to folks on Film Twitter and Letterboxd, the movie event of the year that will win Best Picture at next year’s Oscars will be the new Barbie film. Director Greta Gerwig’s first foray into major studio blockbuster filmmaking after having back-to-back smaller Oscar contending movies in Lady Bird and Little Women. And given this is the same weekend that Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer comes out (Still surprised the two studios actually allowed this to happen), there’s already groups trying to pit the two films against each other. I haven’t seen the latter as of this writing, so I can’t make my subjective comments on it just yet (Just follow my Letterboxd to see where I land on that one); but I have just come back from seeing Barbie and my thoughts are that this will easily be one of the more divisive films of the year among certain communities of film go-ers.
First let me do some expectations-setting. If you’re a parent thinking about taking young kids to see this, this might not be the movie to take them to. The film is much more adult-oriented and real-world oriented than I thought it would be based on the trailers, and that was with me already taking Gerwig’s filmmaking sentimentalities into account. This is much more geared towards teenagers, young adults, grown folk, and elderly people. Its not that off-putting that you shouldn’t take your kid to see this if they’re begging you to, but don’t be surprised if a lot of them walk away more bored and underwhelmed than they expected to be.
The film’s biggest flaw is that it hits on certain themes in regard to feminism, the patriarchy, and unrequited love that will turn some off. And I’m not just talking about “red-pilled” YouTube dude-bros who see “woke” everywhere. It makes the biggest mistake you can make when hitting on these themes and bangs you over the head with them. Even seeing where the movie was trying to come from with its messaging and mostly agreeing with it, I found myself rolling my eyes at how obvious and on-the-nose everything was. There were scenes that just seemed made for some cringe-inducing applause-geared moment that felt like a screenplay begging for an Oscar nomination. Not to mention some will come expecting a fun light-hearted adventure and get…not that outside some fun Barbie Land moments.
Now I should note that this was probably the worst kind of movie for me to watch today given the personal situation I’m going through at the moment that has limited my social media and public presence for now. Film can hit people in different ways based on their personal experiences and some things in this just brought forward some painful things I’m trying to overcome right now. Because of that I should note my grading of the film may get better with time, its possible my personal life just affected my being underwhelmed by the film a lot. And I just want full discretion about that if you’re someone who’s excited to check this out, but also tend to agree with me a lot on where to grade a film’s quality. It shouldn’t discourage you to check this out, because at the end of the day you won’t know how you truly feel about a film until you actually sit down and see it for yourself.
That said I can’t deny the movie has some great performances mainly from Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken respectively. Its not like the movie didn’t make me chuckle a few times and it does have some fun musical numbers. The production design in this is absolutely insane and easily at the moment would make my personal five for what I’d turn in for the critics awards’ I take part in voting in. And I can see this becoming a big cult status film, though I do think its reach will be more limited than some who are already calling this a masterpiece are anticipating. This will certainly make many “Best of the Year” lists come the late Fall and early Winter, but it just didn’t hit me in that way.
Given my mixed feelings on the film may be affected by the negative aspects of my personal life at the moment, I’m going to give this an initial C+ grade with an open mind that grade might go up in time. Something that, for example, happened with me in regard to 2020’s Promising Young Woman. But make no doubt about it, for some out there this will likely be their favorite movie of the year - especially given some already decided that it would be before the calendar turned to 2023 in the first place.