My Belated Barbie Thoughts

Warner Bros
I’ve been asked a few times now for my thoughts about the alleged Oscar “snubs” of Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig for their work on Barbie. I hadn’t yet reviewed the film, despite having seen it twice, so I might as well provide my thoughts on the Oscars and the movie itself in one fell swoop.

In all the “Barbenheimer” hoopla, Barbie was really the event of the year. A Christopher Nolan film about the man who built the atom bomb feels like a no-brainer (as far as its reception and success goes), but the REAL gamble was in handing Greta Gerwig, an indie critic’s darling, the keys to a franchise in Barbie. Warner Bros/Discovery has made a lot of mistakes lately, but that was not one of them. It was risky, bold and completely unexpected—and even more unpredictable. There are so many ways this could have gone wrong. Think of all the other established brand names or franchises whose film adaptations went horribly wrong and you’ll be here all night. Trusting Gerwig, and allowing her the artistic freedom she asked for, was one thing, but Gerwig delivering in such an impressive way was truly the story of the year.

Barbie is exceptionally entertaining, bold and visionary. It is deeply philosophical in an extremely accessible way. It contains vigorous social commentary and deep political undertones. It is relatable and warm, sensitive and sweet. But also boldly adventurous and gut-bustingly hilarious. For one film to have been able to hit all of these notes, to find every right tone at every right moment—it is truly an achievement. Was Gerwig robbed in not garnering a Best Director nomination? Absolutely.

But, even with all of that, Barbie was not my favorite film of the year, if for no other reason than it’s really not my cup of tea. I admire it and respect it, much as I do Oppenheimer, but its over-the-top-ness and blazingly bold audacity did start to wane in the final half hour or so. As much as the first hour is total brilliance, there were moments when it just couldn’t keep up that breakneck pace it had set for itself.

And the biggest negative for me, with Barbie, was, in fact, Margot Robbie’s performance. I am not a huge fan of Robbie in general, and I feel her lack of true range hurt the film here, despite the fact that she absolutely gave it her all and was perfectly cast in every other way. She is completely boosted by Ryan Gosling’s textured performance, which looks much easier than it was. The entire supporting cast was great, especially America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon and Michael Cera. It goes without saying that the costumes and production design played huge roles in Barbie’s overall success, as they are both stunning.

So, in the end, did I love Barbie? Yes. Does Greta Gerwig deserve a Best Director nomination? Absolutely. Did I feel Margot Robbie was snubbed for Best Actress? In looking at the five women who were nominated, I can’t say I thought she was. But I am totally pleased with the 8 nominations it did get, with the exception of a missing Gerwig, because Barbie is a landmark cinematic achievement, worthy of our admiration, our praise and our respect for the huge swing it took. And the best part is, people paid attention. Greta Gerwig did something really right.