Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’ Is an Emotionally Compelling Love Letter to Women

Greta Gerwig's Barbie poster featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling on the cover.

This review features some minor spoilers from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

Note from Marvelous Geeks’ Team: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist. We stand with and for them.

Greta Gerwig’s innately sincere ability to craft profoundly therapeutic love letters to women will be an unmatched legacy someday. She’s already well on her way toward becoming a writer and director whose work is always admirable, sharp, and unforgettable. And as she does with the 2019 Little Women adaptation, Barbie is unlike anything viewers expect and everything they might not know they need.

The film was always going to be fun and clever—that much is clear from the trailers, but Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a love letter to every little girl who grew up fighting something that feels insurmountable to conquer. It’s a bold, bright exploration of existential crises that seem relentless and the hope for something more. It’s a deeply relatable film on all fronts, topped with astute humor, an enamoring cast, beguiling production, a remarkable screenplay, and visionary directing. There are not enough words for a film of this delightful caliber with multiple angles to cover and explore. In every way that matters, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is one of the best films of the year.

So put on your pink lipstick and strap in because it’s about to get emotional in here (while we dance and maybe think about all our problems simultaneously). We’re human, after all, we have the range and capacity for it.

Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig's Barbie looking in a fake mirror.
©Warner Bros.

All parts of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie deserve praise, but none would glisten as brightly without the brilliant screenplay penned by the director and her husband, Noah Baumbach. As the film explores the spaces both women and men inhabit, there’s something organic in the words despite its overt social commentary. We live in a time where naysayers especially love to throw around unnecessary critiques about wokeness in films like this, yet it’s far beyond the point as it feels so authentic even when it’s farcical. The script evokes much emotion, but where it feels like a punch in the guts is in its simplicity and the harrowing depth of relatability that underscores the meta-storytelling.

Gerwig shines best here as she brings similarly raw emotions in Little Women and Lady Bird with some of the simplest declarations. Viewers deserve to see and hear these moments themselves, so this review will refrain from spoiling, but for anyone who’s ever felt as though they aren’t enough, despite how much they keep trying to fit the molds that society vessels, these moments are for us. They’re for the little girls who hid away from the world with their dolls, imagining worlds and places better than the ones they were in. It’s for the little girls whose dreams feel too big and unattainable. It’s for the girls living their dreams, even if it’s later than they thought possible. It’s for the girls who fear eventual downfalls because good things seldom last long.

Barbie and Ken singing in the car in Greta Gerwig's Barbie.
©Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s the screenplay that naturally and effectively harnesses the emotions we’re all still a little too afraid to talk about, centering them so that it forces us to confront the scabs alongside Barbie. At the same time, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is so gorgeously directed that Gerwig’s means of drawing focus and highlighting frames are awe-inspiring. When Barbie’s first tear falls, it’s a domino effect that’s so heartbreaking you don’t even know why you’re crying too. You aren’t the one people just tore to shreds, yet that’s just it—Gerwig ensures that every beat counts and every shot captures it meticulously. What Barbie first experiences during her first few moments in the real world are things we’re all familiar with.

The thematic exploration of existential crises and Barbie’s role in the lives of little girls is no small feat. And with it comes a career-best performance from America Ferrera that people will discuss for years to come. We will be using gifs from her explosively enraging and cathartic monologue as frequently as we meme Jo March’s “Women—” scene. The world is too big and too complex for one person—or doll—to change. Yet, the space people and ideas take up matters tremendously in adding some semblance of clarification to the purpose of human experiences we’re all so desperate to uncover.

Barbie in her pink cowboy outfit in front of Sasha's friends.
©Warner Bros. Pictures

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie explores ideas and themes with such hilariously stark beats that ensure the message is well received. With that, the film’s perfectly cast star Margot Robbie dazzles in a way that’s expected of her talents but simultaneously still so surprising. There’s a moment in the film where Helen Mirren’s omniscient narrator acknowledges how drawing a message about “prettiness” using Robbie’s unfairly good looks maybe might defeat the purpose, yet that’s precisely why it works. 

It also works because of a scene that, according to Variety, Greta Gerwig fought to keep on screen. Robbie is so tender and wholesome when she tells an older woman, “She’s so beautiful,” it’s the first scene that made me outright bawl. It immediately brings her vulnerability and capacity to feel to the surface while beautifully reiterating this film celebrates womanhood in all stages of our lives.

Barbie, Gloria, Sasha, Writer Barbie, and Allan in the car.
©Warner Bros. Pictures

In truth, many of us may have had complicated relationships with Barbie. I can speak from experience in saying that after adoring her for years, there was a brief moment where I resented the doll because she didn’t look like me—even the brunettes didn’t have my olive skin tone or my short legs and long torso. I resented most versions of her because she was “the ideal” woman and everyone on my screen looked like her, inadvertently forcing me to hate myself. There are toxic elements attached to Barbie as to Mattel, but more than anything, this is a result of the damage that society consistently inflicts upon women.

Still, even though she is as stereotypically gorgeous as she is (and plastic), it doesn’t take away from the detail that these emotions are still so distinctively familiar to all women because of what society carves Barbie and women out to be. Though it’s hard to believe because she genuinely is too beautiful for words, surely even Margot Robbie’s felt similar emotions because society isn’t Barbieland—the real world is dark. In turn, our self-awareness is both our greatest strength and, subsequently, our fatal flaw, allowing the concept of an omniscient narrator to be a genius addition. No matter how traditionally beautiful, being a woman isn’t easy when the patriarchy still dominates. And this is where Ferrera’s monologue nails it brilliantly.

The film tackles these emotions while gorgeously highlighting that all our dreams are important, no matter what they look like. It’s a message Gerwig is especially sensational at conveying because she does so with unnervingly raw emotions on full display during the most unexpected moments. She takes the quietest beat and showcases the poignant depth of human complexities while making it feel like you’re standing on the steepest peak, ready to shout to whoever will listen.

Weird Barbie holding up heels and a pair of Birkenstocks.
©Warner Bros. Pictures

While the concept of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie isn’t unique by any stretch of the imagination, it’s so delightfully campy that it’s easy to question where the film could go while you’re in it. Ken’s subplot and, concurrently, Ryan Gosling’s deliciously hilarious performance take viewers through a wringer, and Will Farrell’s Mattel CEO boss is hilariously unpredictable. Kate McKinnon’s “Weird Barbie” is the unforeseen best of the bunch, bringing intriguing lore to the film that makes sense of the functioning two worlds within the film. Every person is perfectly cast, and we could even use a spin-off for Michael Cera’s Allan.

Whether viewers love or hate the film (though it’s hard to imagine the latter sincerely), Greta Gerwig effectively crafts a remarkably memorable blockbuster. People will talk about the influx of pink shades filling theater seats and the release of momentarily feeling stripped to our cores because our childhoods and adulthoods morph together in an unpredictably healing fashion. It’s an experience many viewers will be grateful for, and we have Greta Gerwig and the entire cast to thank for it.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is now streaming exclusively in theaters.
Official Poster Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures


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