starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Will Ferrell
written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach
directed by Greta Gerwig
by Walter Chaw Margot Robbie is so good in good movies--and she's also in Greta Gerwig's smug, self-congratulatory, painfully obvious, subtext-free screed Barbie, playing Mattel's signature doll-for-girls, which, despite occasional attempts at empowerment, are still primarily thought of as regressive artifacts of a reductionist patriarchy. Does this review immediately sound like a didactic thesis more appropriate for a freshman-level gender-studies course? One that condescends to presume neither prior knowledge nor scholarship but rather hopes to build consensus through the most basic of shared sociological experiences, catchphrases, and facile platitudes? Well, fight fire with fire, I guess. It's tough to sit through populist groaners like Barbie because it's right about the wrongs it's angry about, but in the act of being right, it validates the criticisms of the worst people in the world--a strident preach to the choir that embitters the villains while actually showing those same incels, rapists, corporate stooges, and other clinically-twisted narcissists an uncomfortable amount of grace and mercy. I'm sympathetic, don't get me wrong. But while I think it's a long and rocky road to make something thorned and substantive out of a corporate icon under the supervision and financial control of said corporation, I'm of the mind that you might have been better off asking, say, Andrea Arnold to give it a go instead of Gerwig. Someone good, I mean. That is, if you were ever really serious about meaningful subversion as opposed to the stealth launch of your plastic-based cinematic universe using a name with a perplexing niche pedigree as the frictionless, candy-coated disguise for your rapacious intentions.