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CINEMATOGRAPHY & FILM ‣Barbie in Film Land: Nostalgic Joy or Missed Opportunity?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

By Öykü Canli, Senior Editor, Film

So, the most hyped-up film of recent times, "Barbie," finally hit the theaters. Normally, most folks wouldn't bat an eyelid at a Barbie film. After all, we've always seen Barbies as those villainous toys pushing young girls into stereotypical molds. But the moment the big names behind this film were revealed, everyone was on tenterhooks. Greta Gerwig, the feminist genius behind hits like “Lady Bird” and Oscar-nominated “Little Women,” took the director's chair. And she wrote the script with her hubby Noah Baumbach, known for gems like “Marriage Story.” All signs pointed to this not just being some kiddo movie, but maybe, just maybe, a hilarious blockbuster. And the trailers? Totally backed that up. The cherry on top? Its release day clash with Christopher Nolan's much-awaited "Oppenheimer", sparking countless internet jokes about which one to watch first.

Then the ad barrage began. According to Variety, the promo cost was a whopping one hundred and fifty million dollars. From outfits, makeup, burger menus, to the real-life replica of the film's Barbie house, it was like Barbie threw up everywhere. And don't even get me started on the pink shortage rumors because the film used too much of it. Then there's Ryan Gosling's laugh-out-loud interviews, and big music names like Dua Lipa, Sam Smith, and Billie Eilish hopping onto the Barbie train. We were practically drowning in a sea of Barbie.

So, was the film any good?

I mean, it was okay-ish? At the start, I was totally floored by the stunning sets, the beauty of Margot Robbie and her Barbie gang, and of course, Gosling's comedic genius. I even had moments of hysterical laughter remembering my own Barbie-playing days. But as the movie chugged along, it started feeling kinda... meh.

The plot? A standard Barbie (Margot Robbie) living her perfect life in Barbie Land. All is rosy until she wakes up one day in the midst of an existential crisis. Oh, and the Kens? They're just lazing around on the beach waiting for their Barbie girlfriends to finish work. Funny how the movie both praises Barbies and critiques capitalism. Especially when you think about the tons of merch it's spawned.

But there were goodies too!

While Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie were absolute dazzlers, my heart was stolen by "Weird Barbie" and "Alan." Gosling knows he's playing a ridiculous role and embraces it so wholeheartedly you can't help but laugh along. The vibrant, plastic world of Barbieland was a sight to behold, offering insights into womanhood and its challenges.

Now, the not-so-great bits?

It's hard to pinpoint the worst bits, but there were moments that felt... off. It seemed caught between winking at middle-aged folks who grew up with Barbies and appealing to the teeny boppers. There's a tonal whiplash – one moment you're in a deep movie, and then it feels like kiddo time. The storyline becomes repetitive, clichéd, and way too on-the-nose with its messaging. Some serious bits get glossed over, while others get too much screen time.

By the end, I left the theater pondering, "Am I too old to play with Barbies?" while also feeling plumper, poorer, more flawed, feeling sorry for the Kens and weirdly missing my own Barbies.


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