Finding Potential: Our Review of ‘Unicorn Store’

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - April 05, 2019
Finding Potential: Our Review of ‘Unicorn Store’

Sometimes you just have to believe…

Since it bowed at TIFF 2017, Unicorn Store has been sitting quietly until it’s Netflix debut.  While we can understand why it didn’t get fast tracked there’s an undeniable joie de vivre and charm in Brie Larson’s directorial debut.

Kit (Brie Larson) is an eccentric soul who is struggling to find her way.  She just got kicked out of art school and is back in with her parents (Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack) and looking for fresh start.  Her parents hope that she has found it in her new temp job at an ad agency but when she receives a letter beckoning her to a mysterious store with a salesman (Samuel L Jackson) who is offering the one thing that she’s always wanted to make her dreams come true.

It’s hardly a perfect film, debut efforts rarely are but with Unicorn Store Brie Larson manages to straddle a line between the serious and the silly in a sweet and sage reminder that part of truly being an adult is making sure you find a little spot for those important things that make you happy.

The script from Samantha McIntyre is admittedly problematic and it rolls through some basic story telling beats and awkward moments that aren’t entirely sure how to resolve themselves but the light and the spirit of the piece ultimately shines through thanks to some solid direction from Larson.

Yes there are times where the genuine whimsy of the piece gets a little muddled, but Larson never loses sight of that which is actually the point of the whole thing.  She allows her character Kit to command the screen and makes sure that this is a film about people straddling that line between trying to fit in and fulfill the mode of “happiness” that they feel is expected of them rather than working on being genuinely happy with oneself.

As she uses a visual style that feels like ‘80’s on a budget’ at times we get plunked into a very naturalistic sense of well being and existence with the characters that she is creating.  It doesn’t come off perfectly but she does just enough right to keep us visually engaged even in those moments where the narrative is spinning its wheels just a little too much in order to make to a 90+ min run time.  Shaving 10 or so minutes off this could have helped it quite a bit, even with the films strong self directed performance.

There’s no doubt that Brie Larson is a legitimate star, but that being said and in spite of her strong emotionally quirky leading performance, there’s no way she’d have gotten Captain Marvel if this had come out first.  While she admittedly excels at being charismatically quirky (yet still somewhat grounded) in her comedic turns, it’s all just a little too weird for the genuine mainstream.  She’s very solid in the film but this performance which has some genuine nuance to it will only resonate with a smaller cross section of viewers.  People who have seen her in Short Term 12 will appreciate this film but anyone who only knows her from 21 Jump Street or Kong: Skull Island maybe not so much.

Meanwhile Samuel L Jackson doesn’t have much to do other then chew the scenery here…and as always he does it well.  Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack are fine as her tolerant and eccentric in their own right parents while Mamoudou Athie playing an unlikely friend in her unique existence but I’m starting to feel sorry for Hamish Linklater who is carving out a small cottage industry for himself playing this bland white guy asshole roles and it feels like he deserves something a little meatier.

Ultimately, Unicorn Store won’t light the world on fire for Brie Larson as a director but it shows enough flashes of real story telling talent that we’re ultimately looking forward to the next time she gets behind the camera.

  • Release Date: 4/5/2019
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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