The new 2023 Barbie Movie: the good, bad, and the ugly

Promotional Barbie posters, as seen in the Upper West Side of New York City.
Promotional Barbie posters, as seen in the Upper West Side of New York City.
Emma Chrapowicki

Greta Gerwig’s 2023 fantastical comedy, Barbie, has worked its way into the blockbuster category rapidly. As stated by Senior Business Reporter Grace Dean from Business Insider, the film began with a production budget of $145 million, alongside a marketing budget of approximately $150 million. Since its premiere, Barbie has been quick to rack up about $1.4 billion in profits as of September 17th, 2023, according to media reporter Rebecca Rubin from Variety.

With an approximate profit margin of 78.93%, Barbie is far from being low in the ranks of commercial success–but, it is not exempt from any critiques either. The film strives to work feminist ideas into the world of a notorious children’s toy, but falls flat in its story. The plot follows the internal struggles of a mother as her teenage daughter becomes more distant toward her, and how reconnecting with an old aspect of her childhood for solace brought the two together again. It is clearly emphasized how women are a dominant force in the “Barbie world,” as opposed to the Earth. There is a blunt setup for the discussion of the importance of equity, but the idea refuses to go any further than the framework.

“I didn’t have an overwhelming reaction to the movie,” Neve Meiner ‘26 said, “I thought it wasn’t as groundbreaking as others made it out to be.”

The film takes itself seriously enough for viewers to exit their local theater with a shift in mood, but lacks a truly rewarding moral of the story. Although Barbie dolls take up a decent sector of popularity in the toy market, Stereotypical Barbie as a character does not have enough depth for the viewer to feel deeply connected to her. Barbie works as a simplistic retelling of the hero’s journey, rather than a hard-hitting breakdown of societal misogyny.

Despite the flaws of the film, Barbie had its highs as well. Chanel’s artistic director, Virginie Viard, designed several looks for Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie herself. Robbie’s looks featured pieces from a number of past Chanel collections, including the Coco Neige ready-to-wear collection and even an archival 1995 tweed suit, according to Vogue. The choice to empathize on bright tones in the clothing department strongly coincides with the doll’s role in fashion. Each Barbie doll has a distinct, unforgettable look–which was positively reflected in the 2023 film. Furthermore, the sets featured in the production align well with the ideas of femininity and youth.

Every frame is graded to vibrant perfection, until the palette starts to consist of more neutral tones to embody Barbie’s struggles with societal expectations. The film is extremely pleasing from a visual standpoint. Similar to many theatrical hits in this day and age, Barbie has its highs and lows. Regardless, the film makes an effective comedy with a hint of sentiment and is deserving of its success.

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