Every year’s movie calendar brings with it a slew of subplots, mini-narratives that accumulate and eventually cool into what we accept as history. This summer promises a resolution to one of 2023’s big ones, the Graduation/Curtis face-off of our time – by which we of course mean the impending box-office duel between Christopher Nolan‘s destroyer-of-worlds biopic Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig‘s plastic, fantastic movie treatment of iconic children’s plaything Barbie.
Can Gerwig, one of the few name-brand filmmakers in her generation making distinctive work at the studio level, best the reigning king of the thinking man’s blockbuster? Moreover, can she make it through Hollywood’s IP Factory with her sense of wit and personality intact? The first proper trailer for her salute to the game-changing dolly has arrived this morning, and offers an encouraging answer to both questions.
The trailer deliberately withholds the details of the plot, instead more focused on exploring Barbieland, a chipper dimension in which everyone appears as smiley and smartly attired as Barbie (Margot Robbie) herself — except, it seems, for our Ken (Ryan Gosling), fuming with jealousy over those competing for his gal’s affections. An adventure to the real world may be in the cards, if the road signs are to be believed, but there’s plenty of trouble in the paradise of Barbieland to go around. We’ve got a beach-off on our hands!
As a fleet of 24 character posters confirmed earlier, Robbie is not the Barbie, but rather a Barbie, joined by Hari Nef, Emma Mackey, Dua Lipa, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, and Issa Rae, while the posse of Gosling’s Kens includes Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Scott Evans, and Ncuti Gatwa. Emerald Fennell also has a character poster of her own, as Midge, whose only defining features seem to be that she is pregnant and Midge. She’s Midge! And Michael Cera plays Allan. You know Allan. He’s Ken’s best friend.
Most intriguing of all, it appears that Gerwig has embraced the color-saturated artifice of digital filmmaking for an aesthetic that foregrounds its fakeness until it circles back to hyperreality, the same trick deployed by the Wachowski sisters in Speed Racer. That film was another big-swing attempt to make something clever and idiosyncratic from big-budget IP adaptation, consigned to the sad fate of a megaflop only appreciated with time. America wasn’t ready, but this time around, they just might be.
Barbie comes to cinemas in the UK and US on 21 July.
Published 4 Apr 2023
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