Just what the Internet needs, another Barbie review, eyeroll. But as a resident Splice woman writer among few, raised with a (second-hand) Barbie dream house, and as a mother who raised three daughters and therefore spent a few grand on Barbie and all her swag, at least I bring some non-male perspective here at Splice.
Reading the mansplaining pieces that have been written so far has been a bit agonizing, as though one of the Ken characters featured one of those see-through vinyl visors, sweater vest with paid polyester pants, 1976 little plastic Smith Corona typewriter, and was quickly discontinued by Mattel because nobody bought one. I don’t need to point out the patriarchal irony.
I saw the film on a whim (it was playing in 6 out of 8 of the Delaware theaters) on way home from a New York trip this week with a friend.
Since you’ve probably already read so many reviews of the film already that you have pink oozing out your eyeballs, I’ll just jot down a few spoiler-filled thoughts.
Reviews: They either gush on about how it’s the best or the worst film ever made, or somewhere in between. Yawn. Mediocrity is generally the sweet spot in life; take what you like and need, leave the rest. Even after a horde of angry conservative men with threatened masculinity swamped Rotten Tomatoes with whiny reviews, the score stands at 90%. Personally, my favorite review is the “find the queer hidden Easter eggs” piece from Them.
Sex and gender: Femininity, masculinity, sexuality and gender are approached and dealt with blond-head-on in the film. In general, people who have hated this film have a problem with that either due to their homophobia, male fragility, issues of being threatened by the concept of matriarchy, or discomfort around gender roles. The character Allan, based like all dolls in the film on a real doll in Mattel history “Ken’s friend who could fit into all his clothes,” is a celebration of gender neutrality and of course is being heralded by the right as one more example of their imaginary “grooming” woke conspiracy theories. Hilarious in the film: Barbie asking Ken “To do what?” when he asks to sleep over.
Script: Although the writing itself is generally good and the movie has many hilarious moments (check out this list of the best), it could be argued that the script is at times a bit messy and tries to do too much. There’s a lot going on in the Wizard of Oz-like journey of Barbie and her friends and the the script has a hard time focusing on what it wants to accomplish and how to wrap up the plot neatly. Life is messy too so this wide-net, haphazard effect doesn’t ruin the film, it just feels a bit schizo at times and honestly with everything the film has going on, just made me want to see it again when it streams to figure out what I missed the first time. I’d also love a sequel, we need to see more of Depressed Barbie, who I think we all identified with the most, and frankly, I’d buy that doll from Mattel today along with a few others I can think of in a “Real-life” line.
Acting: Also I would see the film a few more times just to see Director Greta Gerwin’s Barnard roommate the incredible actress Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie. With her wacky hair and outfit reminiscent of every one of our kids who ever cut the hair off and drew the things on the Barbies, McKinnon offers both the (now selling outeverywhere) pink Birkenstocks as an alternative to the uncomfortable heels that no longer fit Barbie’s un-high-heeled feet, and the best comedy in the film. Enough has been said about Margot Robbie as Barbie (she’s fine, could have been given more of a comedic arc) and Ryan Gosling as Ken (hilarious).
Cinematography: Oscar-nominated Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto asked Director Greta Gerwin “how pink do we go?” and clearly no pink was left un-pinked, but the fantasy world of the movie goes far beyond color and in Wizard of Oz reverse, we are brought from Dream House world to the real world (and back again) in an incredible cinematic Katy-Perry-video on crack journey that is quite sight to behold.
Politics: Really, Ben Shapiro? You don’t think you’re actually casting yourself as one of the horse-riding Kens in the film by burning Barbie dolls and crying fragile masculinity tears at the thought of a matriarchy? You’re a mockery of yourself. Mattel should make a BEN doll, the accessories would be hilarious. Tiny right-wing books, a miniature plastic Fox News TV, an adorable bottle of douche. The response of the conservatives has been so hilarious, paranoid and unreasonable, not to mention the irony in the obvious: already fictionalized in the film. Go ride a “male extender” horse and lighten up, Francis Kens.
Emotions/Motherhood: Yes, I cried. I know I’m not the only one. I cried because of Rhea Perlman’s depiction of Barbie inventor Ruth Handler; I knew as soon as Margot Robbie walked into the room at Mattel that this was the backstory we were going to get involving the beautiful relationship development of motherhood (as combatant of misogyny and protector of all that is sacred in femininity), highlighted between mother and daughter depicted by America Ferrera’s Gloria and Ariana Greenblatt’s Sasha. It was Perlman’s line “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come” that finally brought me to tears as it well should any mother who has bought her daughter a brand new Barbie doll for Christmas.