Barbie receives rave first reviews as Greta Gerwig’s comedy is hailed the ‘triumph of the year’
The first reviews for Greta Gerwig’s summer blockbuster, Barbie, have landed, and the praise is rapturous.
Years in the making, Gerwig’s neon-pink magnum opus finally arrives in cinemas this week.
Based on Mattel’s Barbie doll, the film has created new levels of anticipation and hype. Alongside its star-studded cast, which includes Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Ncuti Gatwa and Hari Nef, the movie also boasts a delightfully camp soundtrack, with help from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Sam Smith and Billie Eilish, while fans around the world were thrilled by a press tour packed with amazing outfits.
It’s safe to say that expectations are sky high as Barbie attempts to reconcile the doll’s problematic past (setting toxic female beauty standards) with its long-standing feminist ethos that women can be anything.
The film follows Robbie’s “stereotypical Barbie”, whose perfect pink life is shattered by sudden irrepressible thoughts about death. As she travels to the Real World, alongside himbo-in-chief Ken, to confront her makers and understand her true potential, chaos ensues.
Happily, the critics’ first reviews for the film confirm that Barbie does indeed live up to the hype, leading to an impressive 90 per cent score on movie-rating site Rotten Tomatoes.
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Meanwhile, Oscar nominees Robbie (firstly for I, Tonya) and Gosling (most recently for La La Land) could finally get their hands on a coveted golden statuette following glowing praise for their “impressive” and “scene-stealing” performances.
Here’s what the critics are saying.
Gerwig makes Barbie one of the funniest comedies of the year, a delightfully strange adventure that gets weirder at every turn. Barbie has always contained multitudes and, fittingly, so does Gerwig’s excellent third film.
Robbie is simply incredible in the title role. Robbie can represent everything this toy has meant to people, as we watch this plaything become human, in her own way. Gosling is equally fantastic as Ken, a lovable idiot who thinks the patriarchy has something to do with horses and men ruling the world together.
Gerwig delights in the richness and weirdness of her material in this clever send-up of Barbie dolls and their fraught legacy. It’s impressive how much the director, known for her shrewd and narratively precise dramas, has fit into a corporate movie.
Barbie is driven by jokes – sometimes laugh-out-loud, always chuckle-worthy – that poke light fun at Mattel, prod the ridiculousness of the doll’s lore and gesture at the contradictions of our sexist society.
A good-natured but self-conscious movie whose comedy is rooted in that very self-consciousness – often funny, occasionally very funny, but sometimes also somehow demure and inhibited – as if the urge to be funny can only be mean and satirical.
It’s entertaining and amiable, but with a soft-core pulling of punches: lightly ironised, celebratory nostalgia for a toy that still exists.
The most subversive blockbuster of the 21st century to date. This is a saga of self-realisation, filtered through both the spirit of free play and the sense that it’s not all fun and games in the real world – a doll’s story that continually drifts into the territory of A Doll’s House [a ’70s drama, starring Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins, based on a play by Henrik Ibsen].
Barbie adds levels of intelligence and interrogation into not just the script, co-written by Noah Baumbach, but [also] the narrative itself. Rather than turn away from the baggage, the movie unpacks it.
[Gerwig] takes you for a leisurely spin, cranks the tunes, stages some old-school, Hollywood-style musical numbers and brings in those eternal sidekicks, the Kens (with a scene-stealing Ryan Gosling chief among them). The production design and costumes offer ticklish pleasure but also underscore this place’s artificiality.
As a performer, Robbie always pops on screen, and her turn here, as a classic blonde bombshell who has more going on than that sexist stereotype suggests, is charming and subtly phased.
[Barbie] promises nostalgia, grandeur and a little darkness. The film delivers so much else.
It’s a thrill to see Robbie and Gosling effortlessly riding the film’s comedy highs and existential lows, which land with unfaltering, surprising sincerity. Like its glossy protagonist, Barbie is a film that refuses to be boxed, permanently moving the bar on what a popcorn movie can achieve.
Robbie might be a dead-ringer for Barbie, but her moxie powers the performance. Gerwig has made the kind of family film she surely wishes had been available to her when she was a girl, sneaking a message (several of them, really) inside Barbie’s hollow hour-glass figure.
Gosling is a good sport to play the slightly predatory, sartorially helpless pretty boy, as the spray-tanned ex-Mouseketeer parodies his popular “hey girl” persona, flexing both his muscles and a range of facial expressions all but lacking from his recent work.
Barbie is a hyper-femme rollercoaster ride, full of twists and turns as emotional as they are entertaining. Greta Gerwig’s triumphant take on the statuesque icon is a poignant picture of the rocky transition from girlhood to womanhood. It’s a powerful celebration of femininity, one that recognises its contradictions, joys, frustrations, limitations and its freedoms.
Never doubt Gerwig. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker has crafted a fierce, funny and deeply feminist adventure that dares you to laugh and cry, even if you’re made of plastic. It’s certainly the only summer blockbuster to pair insightful criticisms of the wage gap with goofy gags about Kens threatening to “beach” each other off.
Gosling has already scored praise for his earnest himbo performance, and, in truth, he steals the show. Robbie still remains the real star of Barbie… [giving] an impressively transformative performance, moving her arms and joints [as if] they’re actually made of plastic.
Ryan Gosling steals the show in the most improbable triumph of the year.
It’s an unexpected pleasure to report that Greta Gerwig’s film – while still fundamentally being a summer comedy adventure about the Barbie toy line – is far from the blunt-force cash-grab many of us feared. In fact, it’s deeply bizarre, conceptually slippery and often roar-out-loud hilarious.
The things that are good about Barbie – Robbie’s buoyant, charming performance and Gosling’s go-for-broke turn as perennial boyfriend Ken, as well as the gorgeous, inventive production design – end up being steamrollered by all the things this movie is trying so hard to be. Its playfulness is the arch kind. Barbie never lets us forget how clever it’s being, every exhausting minute.
Issues of feminism and patriarchy are serious topics, but the writing duo [Gerwig and Baumbach] managed to state their values with the right amount of levity and camp so that it doesn’t distract from the film’s message, which is all about finding yourself and finding balance.
Robbie is as remarkable as ever. Her commitment to her roles is well-known, and [this] is no exception. She imbues her character with a depth and complexity that elevates Barbie beyond the plastic persona associated with the doll.
Barbie opens on Friday (21 July).
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