Directed by: Greta Gerwig

Written by: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

Mattel has launched many films based upon their toys and with a bunch of animated Barbie films it was just a matter of time before we would get a live-action film. What started off as a journey of self-discovery, existential crisis, and showing women their potential just morphs into a mess of a film that missed not just a few, but several opportunities to raise awareness, inspire, and bring people together for a fun film with meaning. With two writers on this project, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, it’s confusing how they managed to write such a train wreck of a story and plotline given their previous film experience. How this film manages a high IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes score is beyond me. I challenge anyone to find fault below in what I would have done as a writer to elevate this to something better than what is delivered. In truth, it was a mess of a film, and here at Writing Movie Wrongs, we focus on what writing could be done to easily fix such a mess.

So, here come the spoilers.

Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, lives a perfect “Quintessential Barbie” life with a perfect Barbie routine that sees her go about her perfect Barbie-day. Then at an evening party at her place, she asks the crowd if they ever think about dying. This is weird and she soon backtracks and they go about living their perfect existence. Yet the next day Barbie is no longer living the perfect life. Everything is going wrong. She even starts walking flat-footed which causes her to freak out and seek advice from “Weird” Barbie up the hill (Kate McKinnon). Weird Barbie advises her to go to the real world to find the child playing with her.

Barbie then heads out to the real world with her stowaway Ken (Ryan Gosling) and they do find a girl, Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) but Barbie is mistaken because the one with existential crisis issues that played with her is the girl’s mother, Gloria (America Ferrera). Barbie goes to Mattel headquarters and the CEO (Will Ferrel) tries to put her back in a box. He also speaks about a great catastrophe if Barbie is allowed to stay in the real world. Barbie escapes and the mother and daughter help her and go back to Barbieland. Now before they get back, while Ken was in the real world he learned about the “patriarchy.” He goes back to Barbieland and gets all the other Kens to take over and make all the other Barbies submissive to them. Barbie, with a handful of her friends, works to break the other Barbies out of their submissiveness “brainwashing.” Together, they concoct a plan to manipulate the Kens to pit them against one another so that while they are fighting, the Barbies can go vote to restore Barbieland back to the way it was. The Mattel CEO and his executives show up and they are fine with the results, with everyone going back to their lives except Barbie, who makes a choice to go to the real world. The film ends with her going to her first gynecologist appointment…and what just happened here?

The writers seem to have no clue how to write jokes that were more than low-brow fart-level jokes. For a kid’s film to have references to men “beaching,” a strong innuendo to “beating” each other off, is just so low-brow and offensive. Why not bring on some women comedians to help with the jokes? Taylor Tomlinson and Iliza Shlesinger would have been great to work with really funny and talented women to elevate the humor it was sorely lacking.

Bottom-of-the-barrel humor aside, there are several major holes in the story that are honestly unforgivable for the writers. The first is not having any real danger for our protagonist Barbie. Some issues such as suicidal idealization are merely brushed over and never given the real attention a topic like that deserves. Barbie thinks about death and dying and they do nothing to expand upon this plot point. The mother feeling these feelings never fully gets to expand upon them or show how she and her daughter were estranged. Another huge, missed opportunity for this film to help mothers and daughters watching this together reconnect.

So, how to fix the rest of this mess of a film? First, you must fix why Barbie did not want to get in the box at Mattel. When she says it has been a while since she was in a box, have a flashback of her sitting in a dark box in a warehouse to be shipped to a store and then getting placed on a shelf watching kids pass by for days or years until the day she is bought (sort of like purgatory). She wants nothing more than to be picked by her girl, thus establishing the fear for Barbie to get back in the box. Okay, hole one fixed.

The second hole is solving why the Mattel CEO fears letting Barbie go or having others know about her presence in the real world. They can expand upon this by saying if people knew they would get canceled, or the company could be run out of business because people would protest them saying “Barbie lives matter” too. This would be enough motivation for the executives to chase Barbie all the way back to Barbieland.

To fix the next problem is to remedy the entire film’s biggest letdown: The message it sends. The entire film jabs again and again at the patriarchy, which makes a point, but misses the mark. The film’s climax is the Barbies conspiring against the Kens to pit the Kens against one another while they “steal” the vote. Wait. What? Is the message they are sending little girls, to manipulate men and steal what their rights should be? Instead, they could have easily had Barbie have a crisis of conscience during the scene where they are voting and she yells for them to stop. They stop, and she could explain that stealing and manipulating is wrong. They should not have to resort to the patriarchy’s tricks to accomplish what is right. She could then suggest they have a town hall before the vote, to give each side a chance to argue their position, and then everyone gets a fair vote. In a town hall, you get the opportunity to have Ken and Barbie go head-to-head expressing their views and show Barie gaining some nods of approval from some of the other Kens. This would show young girls a powerful message that you can win by logic and intellect and that each side has a voice that should be heard. Such a huge missed opportunity here by the writers. Gerwig should be ashamed to roll film on such a mess of a script. With such an opportunity to do better for women, she let every woman down with this mess of a film. Especially when we know she is most assuredly capable.

Now the ending…it’s just a bit bonkers. The great conclusion is just Barbie going to her first gynecologist appointment…Seriously? A better ending would have Barbie going to an interview to work for the National Organization for Women (NOW) or any other similar organization where she can make good on her wish to “be the one to make the decisions, not be a product of the decisions being made.” They had a great opportunity to showcase several other entities’ work and give them a huge boost via your film. In fact, you green screen shoot this scene so you can have Barbie going to whatever organization works for women’s rights in the various regions of the world. That is how you not only send a message but how you uplift women outside of the theater worldwide.

We all hoped for a film that transcends what is on the surface, but instead, we were stuck with one that only skims the glossy surface of an easily manufactured reality.

With that, thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *