Directed by: Brie Larson
Premise: A whimsical artist (Brie Larson) flunks out of art school and moves back in with her parents. She is contacted by a magical salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) who offers her a unicorn if she fulfills the requirements.
What Works: Unicorn Store successfully mixes comedy and drama in a story of a young woman stuck between her fanciful daydreams and the practical demands of society. The story centers upon Kit, played by Brie Larson, an aspiring artist who has failed out of art school and subsequently takes an office job. Kit loves childish girly things; she keeps her childhood collection of Care Bears and colors everything pink. Just as she seems resigned that her dreams of becoming a painter have evaporated, Kit is contacted by a mysterious salesman who offers her a unicorn provided that she completes a set of tasks. Unicorn Store has a zany sense of the absurd. It’s very funny in a wacky and sometimes cringe inducing way but Unicorn Store is also earnest and the story interweaves fanciful imagination with reality. Kit doesn’t want to become an office drone but she’s also impulsive and undisciplined. As she sets about completing the tasks of the Unicorn Store, Kit addresses some of her personal failings. She also befriends a hardware store employee, played by Mamoudou Athie, who assists her unicorn preparations. Their relationship is sweet and Kit learns to connect with people in ways that could make her a better artist but also helps to satisfy her discontent. Unicorn Store has interesting production design; it alternates the real and organic with the fanciful and the contrast supports the themes of the movie. For all of its whimsy and wackiness, Unicorn Store is ultimately about something very real – the way in which adult life suffocates our dreams and squeezes the magic out of life.
What Doesn’t: The ultimate message of Unicorn Store is a bit confused. On one hand, the movie is about holding onto our dreams and resisting the soul crushing pressures of adult life. But on the other hand, the story implies the necessity of letting go of immature fantasies and unattainable goals. It’s unclear if Kit is giving up on her dreams of being an artist or if she’s just reconciling that the life she wanted might not happen and she will find a way to channel her talents into a nine-to-five existence. That tension is the central idea of Kit’s story but the filmmakers are ambiguous about its resolution. The movie also gets a bit saccharine, especially in its final stretch. The sentimentality is in keeping with Kit’s artistic style and passionate personality but it’s laid on pretty thick toward the end.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Unicorn Store is an unusual story about the tensions of adulthood. Although its themes could have benefitted from a little more focus, the film offers a unique story told with style and Unicorn Store has something to say about the relationship between life and art.
Episode: #748 (May 5, 2019)