Movie Review Monday: Unicorn Store
Once again, we were unable to make it to the theater this weekend, which has led us to review another somewhat recent Netflix original. Unicorn Store is the directorial debut of Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, with the screenplay written by Samantha McIntyre. It follows the character of Kit, who finds herself moving back in with her parents and taking a temporary job after failing art school. Brie Larson stars as Kit with Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford playing her parents. The film’s cast also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Karan Soni, Mamoudou Athie, Mary Holland, and Hamish Linklater.
The film begins with videos of a young Kit growing up and her growing affection for unicorns. The sequence ends with Kit painting a brightly colored self portrait in art school that the professors do not approve. Kit soon finds herself returning to her parents’ house after this failure, where she takes up residence in the basement. This experience and her parents’ influence leads Kit to “act like a grown up” and take up a temporary job at an advertising agency. Kit attempts to accept these developments, but that all changes when she receives a mysterious invitation at work. When she follows the directions in the invitation, she is offered the chance by “The Salesman” to own a unicorn. She soon finds that there are requirements to own the magical being, which sets up the remainder of the story.
So, I remember the trailer for Unicorn Store being a mixture of quirky and endearing, and after viewing the film, I would say that consensus was correct. It is an odd, whimsical tale about growing up and the challenge of embracing the responsibilities of adulthood while still retaining who you are. The themes are definitely something audiences can identify with easily, and I will say that the film utilizes color with a lot of intentionality. Kit is a bright, colorful person that marches to her own beat, and everything from her artwork to her wardrobe demonstrates that. Whenever she enters into the humdrum working world, she trades in her brightly colored aesthetics for an old business suit, and this is just one way the film smartly uses color to demonstrate tone and character growth. It also uses color to play into the whimsical, and this film is not lacking in that category. The whimsical nature of the story leaves it struggling tonally at times. One moment it seems imaginative and exaggerated, but the next scene in comparison often seems more based in reality. It also struggles at times with the characters’ self awareness.
Despite the struggle with tone, I think the film holds several great performances. Captain Marvel established just how wonderful the chemistry was between Larson and Jackson, and this film only showcases that point all the more. Jackson is a brightly colored delight in this film, pushing Kit to become the best version of herself. Having Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford as Kit’s quirky and well-meaning parents was a fantastic call, and I am happy to say that both of them have at least a few moments to shine. Mamoudou Athie leaves the audience falling in love with the helpful Virgil, and it’s no surprise that Brie Larson stands out in the role. She seamlessly taps into both the whimsical side of Kit as well as her more difficult characteristics, and the movie is better off for it.
At the end of the day, Unicorn Store is not going to appeal to everyone, but that is the beauty of the streaming service platform. It is a unique approach to the universal struggle of entering adulthood. While it does struggle with tone and the balance of whimsy and concrete, it still contains some enjoyable performances and an endearing message. If you can get behind all of the talk of unicorns and the excessive amount of glitter, then Unicorn Store can be found streaming on Netflix now.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.