Barbie at 4 million admissions in France, Oppenheimer close to 3 million

Barbie: Greta Gerwig’s film is not made of plastic (review)

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are divine in this zany and clever comedy about the famous Mattel doll.

Updated February 16, 2024 : As we approach the Oscars 2024Or barbie won 8 nominations, Greta Gerwig’s film arrives on Canal Plus this Friday at 9 p.m. (it will also be available in streaming on MyCanal). A huge success in theaters, the film nevertheless divided critics, and especially the public. Too feminist for some, not enough for others, barbie is a more complex and less Manichean film than it seems. And he had rather conquered First when it was released last July, despite some reservations.

Article from July 19, 2023: In 2019, we learned that the first film barbie in live action the story would be written by Greta Gerwig And Noah Baumbach. Yes, the beloved duo of New York cinema, who had signed a few films together, including Frances Haand each laid out indie nuggets like Ladybird (Gerwig) and Marriage Story (Baumbach). Why had they accepted such a project? What could have happened to Warner Bros.? and Mattel to entrust it to them? So many questions overwhelmed us at the time of this announcement.

Four years later, almost to the day, barbie arrives at the cinema and we always wonder how he could have been born. No matter how much we repeat it to ourselves, having followed the entire promo and seen the film, our disbelief is intact. Better yet, it’s even bigger. Because we had a hard time explaining how THIS film exists. By what miracle did Hollywood give the green light to this adaptation of the most famous doll in the world and leave such freedom to its authors?

Hollywood’s hot potato

A live-action Barbie film, Mattel has been dreaming of it for years. In 2009, the company signed a first partnership with Universal Pictures. The potential is enormous. Everyone knows Barbie in the world, she is by far the number 1 in her category. It’s’intellectual property par excellence, the type of essential brand that Hollywood dreams of exploiting. Laurence Mark, who has just produced Julie & Juliais in charge of the project, but it will not succeed.

In 2014, Barbie landed at Sony Pictures. And things are getting serious. A screenwriter (Jenny Bicks) is named, and Amy Schumer chosen for the lead role. Eventually, she had to step down, Anne Hathaway replaced her and Alethea Jones was retained to direct the film. But Sony procrastinated, decided to change direction and ultimately lost the rights to the film. Screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), who had been responsible for reworking the script, regretted a few days ago that she had not been given enough creative freedom…

When hot potato Barbie finally arrives at Warner Bros., Anne Hathaway abandons the role in favor of Margot Robbie, who also becomes a producer. In the summer of 2019, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach arrived to write a brand new script. We promise to give them a free hand. A few months later, COVID arrives. The couple finds themselves confined and decides to write the craziest Barbie film possible in their corner while we wonder if cinema is not simply dead. “They’ll never let us make this movie“, Robbie said to herself after reading the script. She was wrong.

She can do anything

Excited by the result, Greta Gerwig decides to direct herself barbie. From then on, it will be HIS film. In the meantime, the director of Lady Bird did The Daughters of Doctor March, a star-studded film (Meryl Streep, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet) with a substantial budget ($45 million) which was notably nominated for an Oscar for best film and an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Her status has changed, as has Hollywood’s mindset towards female directors. She wants to do barbie as it sees fit, and Mattel, wishing to continue modernizing the image of its toy, does not really have good reasons to prevent it.

Greta Gerwig obviously had the time of her life writing and filming barbie. And we have about as much fun watching it. From the opening scene shown in the first teaser, parodying 2001: A Space Odyssey, The tone is set. Between irreverence and respect, she decided to make Barbie her own, to make her speak and to speak through her, to glorify and mock her. But always with the nostalgic tenderness of the little girl who played with her neighbors’ Barbies because her mother refused to buy her some. A benevolent look at the doll, sometimes so criticized (and criticizable), which almost always hits the mark.

The film does not hesitate to put its feet in the dish, opposing the fantasy of the Barbie symbol of female emancipation, who reigns supreme over Barbie Land, to the cruelty of the real world, where she rather embodies the symptoms of sexism and of capitalism, to the point of being rejected and outmoded by today’s teenage girls. And he uses this mirror game as a perfect pretext to question our society, but also the world of Barbie. When Ken discovers the patriarchy, nothing will be the same again…

The spleen of Barbiet and Ken

Under a flood of roses, barbie mixes pure, and sometimes truly absurd, comedy with social commentary with great mischief and subtlety. And behind the glitter, the incredible costumes and the meticulous choreography, we follow with delight the trajectories of Barbie and Ken, for whom Gerwig and Baumbach conducted an in-depth character study. What’s it like to be a plastic doll without genitals? And to be her little sidekick (a real toy boy!), condemned to watch over a fake beach with a fake cardboard sea?

barbie is a film. No, barbie is a sum of films. It’s a movie about Barbie, a movie about Ken, a movie about patriarchy and feminism, a movie about a complicated relationship between a mother and her daughter. And, let’s not kid ourselves, sometimes a giant advertisement intended to give us merchandising and make Barbie cool again for those who had put her in the closet (while scratching the management of Mattel with Will Ferrell as a lawless CEO) . But above all not a litany of references and soulless winks to the Super Mario Bros.. Nor a meta pop black hole way The Great Lego Adventure. Barbie prefers to summon The Wizard of Oz, The Red Slippers And The Young Ladies of Rochefort than Batman and Star Wars.

Greta Gerwig wanted to put a lot of things into her barbie. Maybe a little too much? Despite its duration of almost 2 hours, the other Barbie and Ken must have struggled to exist in the shadow of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, absolutely flamboyant and inhabited in these roles for which they seem to have been born. The Weird Barbie played by Kate McKinnon and the irresistible Alan (Michael Cera) clearly stand out against the photocopies, certainly very diverse, of the duo. Most of them have as their only lines of dialogue “Hi Barbie!” And “Hi Ken!“, like singer Dua Lipa, obviously coming for the promotion and the soundtrack.

The promotion, precisely. Between teasers, trailers, extracts and other TV spots, barbie showed too much, like most modern blockbusters. But unlike The Flash, he knew how to preserve an important part of his plot (which we will therefore keep from revealing to you), and leave enough surprises for the spectators so as not to spoil everything. Astonishing and explosive, barbie amazes us right down to its long ending, as funny as it is touching. And we say, naively, that a new era could finally open for arthouse blockbusters. As long as Hollywood allows them to work…

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