The temptation to dunk on the live-action Barbie movie is high, because it’s a live-action Barbie movie. But Greta Gerwig is directing. Gerwig and Noah Baumbach wrote the screenplay. And Margot Robbie is not only starring as Barbie, she’s producing the movie through her Lucky Chap banner, which has previously produced I, Tonya, Promising Young Woman, and TV series Dollface and Maid. As a producer, Robbie is nurturing complex narratives centered on complicated women, and often those women are trapped in systems that exploit and abuse them—this is almost a singular focus in her work behind the camera. Doesn’t that make you curious about this Barbie movie?! I mean, maybe it’s a cash grab for all involved, but what if it isn’t? What if this rather stellar assemblage of creative talent is actually trying to do something interesting with BARBIE?
The latest intriguing name attached to this project is Ryan Gosling, who just signed on to play Ken. Again, I feel all the jokes waiting to be made burning in my veins, but at the same time, we’ve discussed before how choosy and exclusive Gosling is. He doesn’t really do cash grabs. The closest he comes are movies like Gangster Squad and The Nice Guys and Blade Runner 2049, studio projects that still avoid the label of disposable entertainment and easy categorization (and in the case of The Nice Guys, are instant contemporary classics). The last time Gosling made a movie featuring a plastic woman, it was the quirky and emotional Lars and the Real Girl in 2007. And he likes to do comedies every few years, but he hasn’t done one since the back-to-back shot of The Big Short and The Nice Guys back in 2015/2016. Ryan Gosling’s taste is demonstrably interesting, and he seems to be feeling his funny bone again. So what does this Barbie movie have that Ryan Gosling wants?