Now before you unduly scoff at me for implying you’d get excited for a Barbie adaptation for no good reason, let me outline one small point I feel you should take note of before jumping to any assumptions about this film; and that’s that nearly any story is adaptable, all you need is the right team behind it. Yes, even something as egregiously branded, historically contrived, and aggressively female-orientated as Barbie™ is capable of being adapted into something special for everyone to enjoy. The key term here is right team, and it just so happens that Barbie has a stellar team behind it. What we have here is a trifecta of individuals that already solidify this film as a project of major significance.
First off in the lineup of creatives that will make this Barbie adaptation into a reality is three-time Oscar nominated writer Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) who will be leading the charge for the screenplay of this film – his experience in writing raw, human performances is what provides a lot of hope that this film will pluck the correct emotional strings and provide something a little more nuanced. The last thing anyone wants is just another lifeless adaptation brought back to life from the IP graveyard – what one would hope for from Noah Baumbach is some authenticity behind all that. Alongside Noah in this project is his absurdly talented wife Greta Gerwig (director of Lady Bird, Little Women) who will stand as this film’s director. Greta is perhaps the true key in unlocking this film’s potential, as her overwhelming success in female-driven narratives has made waves throughout the industry in recent years. The combination of both Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig make this a tried and true Ken and Barbie team-up – hopefully paving the way for a film that takes its audience by surprise, not unlike The Lego Movie (2013).
Finally, none other than Margot Robbie will be playing the role of Barbie herself. Robbie is the ideal choice here as she stands as one of the case-study examples of Hollywood’s current day beauty standard, she’s the it girl at this point in time. Margot Robbie as this iconic “character” feels essential, as she stands at a point in her career of peak popularity and praise, making her involvement all the more apt. There’s so much to be said about the way Hollywood uses and discards its actresses based purely on their appearance; this concept has been touched on before in the past with examples stretching as far back as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958); being the directors self-examination on why he so commonly used and discarded blonde actresses. But never before have we quite gotten such a high-budget and commercial level approach to this concept. The way that self-image affects self-worth is undoubtedly something this actress has feelings about and most certainly has all the skills necessary to translate it through this character.
Now, aside from the brilliant folks already behind this project, what I feel we have here is an opportunity; namely, an opportunity for the brand of Barbie to be reexamined with fresh eyes. Barbie is a name that has been so universally associated with the concept of vanity, perfection, and unrealistic ideals that it has helped shape the identity of an entire generation. Even the name itself has become an insult people would use to describe the demographic of girls that resembled the Barbie look. Well, with the expertly talented hands of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, audiences could potentially receive a heartfelt story that may challenge its impressionable audience with questions on our own society’s beauty standards. There are many questions to be asked and many to be answered – hopefully with a bit of luck, we’ll receive some satisfying ones. Life in plastic, is it fantastic? Deep stuff.