Margot Robbie is on a roll. The Aussie actress was first seen by large audiences as Leonardo DiCaprio's wife in Martin Scorcese's The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, Four years later, her portrayal of ice skater Tonya Harding earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination for I, Tonya.
Her last four films – Amsterdam, Babylon, Asteroid City and now Barbie – all by major directors and released less than a year apart, raised Robbie to a new level of admiration and respect. She's become one of Hollywood's leading earners and its No. 1 starlet.
Robbie's accomplished this by choosing her parts well. Her supporting role as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2017 is a good example. Though she doesn't have many lines in the film that mirrors the Manson killings in 1969, Robbie stuns as she walks into a theater to see Tate's latest film.
But if Barbie is her super breakout, then David O'Russell's Amsterdam and Damien Chezelle's Babylon, both released late last year, was her true coming-out party. Both characters - Valerie Voze and Nelie LaRoy - date back to the early decades of the 20th century. Valerie is a nurse/artist/free spirit who befriends two wounded American soldiers during World War I. Nellie is a wild wannabe actress just as the silent film era's ending. Robbie inhabits the roles with a deep sense of understanding how she fits into the puzzles. While Amsterdam is a bit of a jigsaw to follow, Bablyon plows deep into Tinseltown's bawdy and perverted past, and Nellie gets chewed up and spit out as she desperately tries to fit in with the hoi polloi.
About the debauched opening party scene, I wrote last year:
Cocaine is the drug of choice, especially Nellie’s. She's offered heroin, morphine and coke and settles on a huge mound of Bolivian powder that rivals Tony Montana’s in Scarface. It spurs Nellie to dance and talk fast with her out-of-place New Jersey accent.
Both films were rejected during awards season, Babylon due to its racy subject matter and Amsterdam because it was too clever even for its critics. But Robbie rose to the occasion in both, despite their lack of accolades.
This takes us to Greta Gerwig's Barbie, the pink-hued phenomenon that has continued for two weeks with ridiculous box-office numbers. (Women have spoken.) Robbie plays "stereotypical Barbie," the classic plastic, curvy blonde with a modest chest and no vagina. She and other Barbies of various sizes and colors occupy Barbieland, where all is well until Barbie's feet flatten after years of wearing high heels when she starts uncharacteristically wondering about death. What follows is a trip the "Real World" (Venice Beach) with the generally flustered Ken (a goofy Ryan Gosling) coming along for the ride. There they find a place that's dramatically opposed to theirs as men (including Mattel CEO Will Ferrell) run everything.
Barbie's not quite a super hero (yet) but she does get to the bottom of the problem and returns to Barbieland where she puts Ken in his place and reasserts her position as the queen of the Barbies.
No marijuana is smoked or coke snorted in this PG-13 film that has a few cute lines about genitals, but is generally safe for teens and even young children to watch.
With Margot Robbie leading the way, what's not to like?