Written by Joshua Copus – Oxland |
Unicorn Store is a dramedy that follows Kit (Brie Larson), a twenty-something artist whose obsession with unicorns gets her kicked out of art school. Coming back to her parents who want her to move on, she takes on a boring temp office job and seems to settle into a routine. That is, until The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) offers her the chance of a lifetime to own the unicorn of her dreams.
It’s somewhat strange for Larson’s directorial debut (technically released in 2017 at TIFF, but whatever) to go live on Netflix not long after her starring role in Captain Marvel. Even stranger is that the film boasts Larson as the director, main actress and producer, which is no small feat, for sure. While it boasts an impressive cast with veteran actors like Samuel L. Jackson and rising stars such as Mamoudou Athie (Patti Cakes), and offers an inventive premise, it falls flat on its face.
Ultimately, she comes across as a childish twit without a direction in life
The biggest issue is also supposed to be the main selling point: our woman-child heroine, Kit. For a film like this to work, and in her own words, have ‘unconditional love’ for her, we need to relate to her and want to see her grow out of her problems. However, the film wants to have its sprinkle-covered cake and eat it too, as it can’t decide whether it wants you to feel sorry for her or laugh at her self-inflicted misfortunes half the time. There isn’t much development to her character either, as it isn’t made clear why the character acts the way she does and doesn’t hint at any sort of behavioural disorder, so the film expects you to take it at face value. Ultimately, she comes across as a childish twit without a direction in life, while the rest of the supporting cast comes across as cartoonishly uptight, which makes the story hard to take seriously even from the opening scene.
Speaking of which, the story is all over the place with the sort of message it wants to push. At the beginning, it seems like it’s going to be her struggles as an artist, but that falls to the wayside and just adds to the character’s list of failures, as it gets her nowhere in her arc. The only thing it amounts to in the end is her bombing a vacuum advertising pitch with a glitzy display of props and confetti
Then, it seems like it’s about her struggles to fit in as an adult, but even with the lessons her parents try to push on her, they seem more content to enable her immature nature rather than make her take responsibility. At the end, she makes a decision to sacrifice something for the sake of someone else’s happiness, but by then, it’s too little too late for what should’ve been a redeeming moment. There’s even a sub-plot about Kit’s sexually harassing boss, which has some relevance in today’s workplace environment, but like the rest of the film, lacks focus.
The filmmaking is competent, but nothing special
Outside from that, there are a few things that stop the film from being completely unwatchable. The filmmaking is competent, but nothing special. One scene between Kit and her love interest Virgil (Athie) in the hardware store stands out in terms of cinematography, but that’s about it. The acting is solid and makes the experience a bit more entertaining, even if the characters the actors play are underdeveloped. As inept as the writing is as well, it’s hard to hate this film. While Kit isn’t a likeable protagonist, there are aspects of her character like her uncertainty about the future and holding onto sentimental memories that could resonate with those around her age.
That makes it all the more disappointing that these themes were wasted on a poorly executed script. The story could have delivered on its message of ‘everyone needs a little magic in their lives even if they’re all grown up’ (which, no joke, is said verbatim by Kit), but instead, feels textbook, patronizing, and about as subtle as, well, a glitter bomb in your face. There are other films like Scott Pilgrim, which Larson also appeared in, and even games like Night in the Woods that’ve done this type of coming-of-age story much better before. Unicorn Store adds nothing new to the table.