Director: Brie Larson
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Karan Soni, Mamoudou Athie
Watch Unicorn Store online in the UK: Netflix UK
Is there anything that Brie Larson can’t do? Larson is an indie breakout star, an Oscar winner, a superhero and now, she’s turned her attention to directing, with her debut film Unicorn Store. Scripted by Samantha McIntyre, Unicorn Store is a joyful film which leaves a smile on your face. A film many young millennials will most likely identify with, especially those trying to make the painful transition from adolescence to adulthood. This quirky, bright, and colourful film is the perfect antidote to a rainy afternoon, and captures the mundane, grey, corporate world of office life perfectly.
The film follows Kit (Larson), an artist who dreams big and sees the world in all the colours of the rainbow. Kit is the type of character who you can’t help but warm to, even when she acts a little juvenile at times. Her dreams are dashed after her work is rejected by her college art professor. Feeling aimless, Kit takes up temp work to satisfy her parents (Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack), having been forced to move back in with them (her room has been changed to a ‘gym’, so she’s having to live in the basement with her carebears). Kit finds that work isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. When her new boss asks her what her long term goal in life is, she replies: “I would like to not be a great disappointment.”
Her life suddenly changes when she receives a mysterious card, inviting her to the Unicorn Store and into the world of The Salesman (Samuel L Jackson). He’s here to sell her childhood fantasy: a living, breathing unicorn. However, there’s a catch. Kit must prove herself worthy of receiving said unicorn, by building a home for it, securing a financial plan for its future, and demonstrating she’s capable of bringing the unicorn up in a stable family unit. Kit befriends a hardware store employee called Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), who helps her begin building a stable. However, will Kit prove herself worthy of the unicorn and will she become a functioning adult?
Unicorn Store is an alternative take on the coming-of-age story, as Kit’s pursuit of the unicorn is met with the harsh reality that she has to mature as a person. In one scene, we see her address her Care Bears, asking them whether they still like her, but, of course, they don’t answer, whereas once upon a time they may have done; if her stuffed toys aren’t replying, then perhaps she can no longer rely on her imagination to have a meaningful life. The film is a refreshing and feminine spin on the type of films we have seen where immature men have to face reality and grow up – Garden State, and (500) Days of Summer are perfect examples – proving that women can also have existential crises.
It is clear that McIntyre is still a newbie in regards to scriptwriting, with the screenplay feeling muddled and underdeveloped in certain places. Some characters seem a little thin in places, but the actors give consistently strong performances with the material they have to hand. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, some may find the film’s whimsiness irritating, and the character of Kit is always likeable. There are moments where she acts so childish and bratty, that you end up shaking your head in disbelief, but when she opens up to her parents in one touching scene, we understand why she reacts in certain ways. And, of course, Kit is only human; she has flaws and she has her issues. Humans aren’t perfect, but unicorns are.
Larson has made a bold decision to direct a film that, on paper, might scare many directors away. We all know that she is a natural in front of the camera and Unicorn Store is proof that she is more than capable of being behind it as well. It reinforces the fact that she is an unstoppable force in Hollywood, and truly a marvel.
Unicorn Store is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.