Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Barbie: An Entertaining Mix of Feminism, Diversity, and Self-Reflection

Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, Alexandra Shipp, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, and Will Ferrell.

Where to Watch: In theaters

Release Date: July 21st

Runtime: 1h 54m

Synopsis: Barbie (Margot Robbie) is a young woman who embarks on a mission to the real world with her counterpart, Ken (Ryan Gosling), once a sudden emotional and mental change challenges her existence. Leaving behind her familiar world, she finds herself (along with Ken) on a journey filled with diverse personalities and cultures, inspiring her to embrace her own uniqueness and self-discovery.

I did not know what to expect when I attended the screening of Barbie. What I thought would be a fairly entertaining movie about an iconic toy line with a star-studded cast turned out to be much much more, and I came out of the theater with a smile on my face. I would not have expected this seemingly light-hearted film to be such an empowering story that celebrates diversity, feminism, and self-reflection. Directed and co-written by a Greta Gerwig, this modern adaptation takes audiences on a journey that redefines what it means to be a heroine, inspiring audiences of all ages and backgrounds to embrace their uniqueness and find strength in their own individuality.

Within the first 10 minutes, it was made clear that this film was going to be self-aware, making fun of the stereotypes connected to “Barbie” and the ridiculous expectation of perfection. Even the voiceovers and background helped set up the audience for this premise throughout the rest of the film. So make sure you pay attention because here is where you will find some of the most comedic moments.The film truly comes to life with the captivating portrayal of the iconic figure by the immensely talented Margot Robbie. She effortlessly embodies the essence of the character and skillfully hits all the emotional tones throughout the course of the movie, making her the perfect fit for the role.

The film weaves various cultural elements, introducing characters/models of Barbie (and Ken) from different backgrounds, each with their own routine lifestyle and role in the Barbie world. From an iconic Barbie, played by Robbie, to President Barbie, played by Issa Rae, Barbie showcases a variety of talents and professions, but they lack individuality and simply follow their assigned roles in Barbie world. My favorite, Ken, is beach; no, this is not a typo or grammar error. His thing is “beach”. You’ll have to watch the film to get it. 

The Cast

One of the most applaudable aspects of Barbie is its diverse and inclusive casting. By doing so, Barbie speaks directly to an audience that is often underrepresented on the big screen. These roles are not only diverse but well cast, and each character fits into the story organically. You won’t find “token” characters in this film, which I find refreshing. I mean one of the reasons the film gained my interest was because of Issa Rae’s involvement, and I can see why she signed up. She is a Black woman president running the community effectively. Plus, I like the fact that they allow her to have a bit more of her own personality because her reactions/responses are priceless. It makes me wonder if she adjusted her lines in the film. Besides Issa, I was looking forward to watching Kate McKinnon because she is always in rare form in anything she’s in; and trust me, she is funny in practically every scene as Weird Barbie. A couple moments worth noting: Micheal Cera’s and Will Smith’s short time on screen is hilarious! Also, Lizzo and Helen Mirren were perfectly chosen for their roles in this film. 

The Ken’s 

Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, had me falling out of my seat in laughter because he was so ridiculous, especially when he arrived in the real world. Plus, consistent beef with the other Ken (played by Simu Liu) is hilarious because as both talented actors, they have a chemistry that works and makes their comedic timing almost perfect. Kingsley Ben-Adir and Ncuti as Ken also were perfect in the cast as they too had their stand-out moments on screen. Together they help build a final act scene that I am sure will be trending on social media. It’s so funny. I would watch it again for that scene alone. The writers of the film must’ve gotten insight from a therapist about the male psyche because some of the areas and psychology of Ken’s character had me thinking, “wow, that’s really how men think sometimes”.

Message! 

What I like about Barbie is its unapologetic approach to feminism. Breaking away from the outdated damsel-in-distress stereotype, this modern adaptation portrays all of the Barbies as strong, independent, and intelligent women who stand up for themselves and others. The film emphasizes the importance of female empowerment and the value of girls dreaming big and reaching for the stars. Through her endeavors, Barbie proves that success and happiness are not defined by appearance or societal expectations, but rather by embracing one’s passions and aspirations. 

The film also offers a refreshing sense of self-reflection, encouraging audiences to embark on their own personal journeys of growth and self-discovery. Barbie’s quest to find her true self leads her to confront her own insecurities and doubts. By doing so, she becomes a symbol of resilience and courage, demonstrating that the path to self-fulfillment is often strewn with challenges that can be overcome through perseverance and self-belief. Barbie urges viewers to question their own preconceived notions and to embrace change as an opportunity for growth.

Set Design and Cinematography

Visually, we see stunning elements from the imaginative world of mixed real life to 2-D environments, adding to the unfolding narrative and giving the audience a look at how different the worlds are. The vibrant and diverse color palette adds to the story creating visuals of how the citizens of Barbie-land see their surroundings. The attention to detail in costume design and set production brings Barbie’s world to life, captivating audiences and immersing them in the magic of the film. This is what makes the film work! Because when Barbie and Ken go to the real world, their color palate changes right along with their personalities, adjusting based on interactions with their new environment. 

The Soundtrack

Furthermore, the film’s soundtrack is a perfect complement to the narrative, featuring songs from Lizzo, Nikki Minaj (with Ice Spice), and Billie Eilish. All of these songs perfectly complement the scenes in which they were featured, most notably the Eilish song played during the final act. I heard one viewer in attendance say she was getting teary-eyed, fitting as it was during a moment of revelation. 

Another surprise was the song performed by Ryan Gosling (once again, this is not a typo; Gosling does actually sing lol!). I won’t be surprised to see this song and music video go viral, much like the “Peaches” song by Jack Black, because it’s so ridiculous yet memorable. 

In conclusion, Barbie brings to life aspects of the iconic toy while celebrating diversity, feminism, and self-reflection. Kudos to the film’s commitment to inclusivity and authentic representation, I can see it setting a new standard for the industry, thus paving the way for more diverse and empowering narratives in the future. With its positive message and powerful storytelling, Barbie is a must-see film that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on audiences of all ages. You won’t be surprised to find that the film has received a Critics Choice seal of distinction even before its release.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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