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Film Review: Unicorn Store

22 April 19 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfil her childhood dreams in Brie Larson's feature-length directorial debut...

Director: Brie Larson

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack

Running time: 92 mins

Imagine a young twenty-something woman, Kit (Brie Larson), who has just failed at art school and finds herself back at home with her chippier than chip parents and no life direction. Then imagine that she receives a letter from a particularly bizarre Samuel L. Jackson - sporting tinsel in his hair, a plush, pink suit and a questionable vocation in life. This letter is an invitation to “The Store” and Jackson, as “The Salesman”, claims that he wants to sell her a unicorn - apparently a unicorn is exactly what she needs in her life right now, being not only a wondrous, magical creature that actually exists but also providing unwavering and undying love for their owner. Then, imagine that you spend the rest of the film trying to work out whether you’re watching a twee story about a very gullible woman getting conned out of her money by an outrageous salesman, or whether you’re watching an overly complicated story about a woman who is actually suffering from a mental illness.

To tell you the truth, I couldn’t quite work out what the film was attempting to be. Generally, it seemed to be trying to tell me the message that we all have to embrace our inner child in order to be at peace with who we are, but for a lot of time it appeared more like Kit was just regressing back to childhood and was unable to grow in any way. The characters are an eclectic bunch, who don’t play very interconnected parts in each other’s lives. I think this is why I wondered if Kit was just hallucinating everything. Her parents are annoyingly positive about everything, and this stems from them being guidance counsellors for disturbed young people, so it’s just their default mode. Then there is a stream of random friends/acquaintances that are supposed to have comedic value but which fail to add much to the plot and the jokes fall a bit flat. 

If you take out the whole unicorn element, it plays as a pretty conventional, indie piece about a girl who is trying to find space in the world for her own creativity - to be who she wants to be

The friendships that Kit does develop don’t have much basis and seem a bit sudden, which adds to the idea that what we are seeing isn’t really reality. She also has a very weird boss, who would be a top case for sexual harassment. The only character I genuinely liked and that generally had more depth and humanity was Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), a D.I.Y store worker who gets swept up in Kit’s madness because he’s just really a nice guy. Although to be fair, I sort of ended up liking Kit too, even if she was a bit infuriating.

If you take out the whole unicorn element, it plays as a pretty conventional, indie piece about a girl who is trying to find space in the world for her own creativity - to be who she wants to be.  It’s not such a bad concept, but I do think the script’s a bit poor.  I last saw Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, so this is a bit of change, especially as this is also her directorial debut.  I have questions about Jackson’s choice in being involved in this project - I’m presuming it’s a Marvel-friendship favour? But it would be interesting to see what Larson does next. As long as it’s something different.

Did you know? According to Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson cast himself in the movie

Unicorn Store is available to watch on Netflix now

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