THIS SUMMER, PREPARE TO PAINT THE TOWN PINK. One of the most famous and beloved toys in the world, Barbie, is coming to the big screen – and she couldn’t be in safer hands. We begin with co-writers Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Gerwig also directs the film. The actor turned filmmaker earned her stripes as the lovable and imperfect lead of several of Baumbach’s films including Frances Ha and Mistress America, with Gerwig and Baumbach bringing wry wit to every script in a way sure to bring the wildly popular but perhaps under-studied story of Barbie to life.
Since her solo directorial debut Lady Bird, released in 2017, Gerwig has cemented herself as an expert on the female experience. That film was a tender, Oscar-nominated coming-of-ager starring Saoirse Ronan, and the director followed it up with a big-hearted adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women starring Ronan, Florence Pugh and Emma Watson. Who better to tell the story of the idol of little girls everywhere?
The plot for Gerwig’s extravaganza is still under wraps but, thanks to glorious teaser trailers and a genius marketing campaign (in which anybody can submit their own selfie to recreate a Barbie portrait), we do know that joining Margot Robbie (who was cast long ago as the titular doll) are 10 other brilliant female actors – all playing different versions of Barbie. There’s Doctor Barbie, played by Hari Nef; mermaid Barbie (singer Dua Lipa); Supreme Court Justice Barbie (Ana Cruz Kayne); and many more.
Fans of coming-of-age series Sex Education will be particularly pleased, as Emma Mackey also plays a version of Barbie, and both Ncuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells star in the film as Ken and Aaron Dinkins. Gatwa is not the only Ken, however. Enter Ryan Gosling, complete with ever-present roller-blading accessories.
Perfectly cast, Gosling and Robbie are playing what you might call the “flagship” Ken and Barbie, but other actors are joining Gosling to honour various versions of the action man too. These include Shang-Chi himself Simu Liu, Kingsley-Ben Adir and John Cena. Also look out for Will Ferrell as Mattel’s CEO, which suggests some self-aware hijinks in the real world.
What we do know from the early teasers is that this Barbie is unlike any lifeless toy story, any predictable female-empowerment story, and, really, unlike anything we’ve seen before from Baumbach or Gerwig. Expect colourful, eye- popping backdrops, hilarious tongue-in-cheek comedy (“I’ll beach you off Ken”), sharp commentary on women’s role in society and arresting images aplenty – Barbie stepping from her pink stiletto heels, her feet retaining the shape of the shoe, for example, is an immediate classic.
It’s a huge swing, as Gerwig told Dua Lipa on the At Your Service podcast. “It was something that was exciting because it was terrifying,” she explained. “I think that was a big part of it, like: ‘Oh, no, Barbie’... It felt like vertigo, starting to write it...Usually that’s where the best stuff is.” Is it about capitalism, feminism or none of the above? With so many Barbies, this calibre of filmmakers, it’s just fun to be along for the ride.
By Ella Kemp
IN THE KNOW
1. Ryan Gosling told US talk show host Jimmy Fallon that, after Greta Gerwig offered him the role of Ken, he saw his daughter’s Ken doll lying face-down in the mud next to a squished lemon. Gosling took a picture and sent it to Gerwig with the caption. “I shall be your Ken, his story must be told.”
2. Both Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon starred in Jay Roach’s newsroom drama Bombshell. Spookily, McKinnon’s character called Robbie’s character an “anchor Barbie”.
3. Barbie was created by American businesswoman Ruth Handler in 1959. Her name was inspired by Handler’s daughter Barbara.