Unicorn Store - Review
Unicorn Store may be the biggest oxymoron of 2019.
It’s shocking that a movie with so much sparkles and glitter can be so soulless. Even with a positive-to-the-tenth-degree attitude and several satirical highlights, Unicorn Store isn’t much more than a series of meetings, stock obstacles, and self-actualization metaphors, thinly veiled as, you guessed it, the acquisition of a unicorn.
The best scene in Unicorn Store is the first. A paint-splattered and beaming Brie Larson covers a wall in a prestigious art hall with rainbow-colored paint, streaking and coloring outside-the-lines to her heart’s content. It’s the happiest we see her for a good hour, as the film pulls back and tells the story of a dreamer whose life was put on hold by a desire to live up to expectations. A failure in the art world, Kit (Larson) turns to temping, taking a job at a slightly-dystopian company that’s never truly clarified. Her life finally on an uptick, Kit begins to receive personalized letters, complete with glitter and sparkling text: she’s invited to “The Store.” Following the address, she quickly learns that not only do unicorns exist, but Samuel L. Jackson is selling her one! The set-up to this moment is strong enough, adequately displaying a girl with repressed dreams waiting to be encouraged: then the story takes a hard turn into romance, and though it’s clearly intentional, it never fully recovers from the shift in narrative priority.
A friendship sprouts between Kit and Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), the contractor she hires to build a unicorn stable in her backyard. In its first detour, Unicorn Store stumbles in awkwardness and poorly written jokes. The best scripts deliver lines as genuine statements, not character exposition in the form of playful banter. It’s C-level romantic comedy material, propped up next to a wondrous and mystical story of a girl realizing her passion. As things progress the relationships becomes slightly more bearable, but seeing as the film ends on a walk into the sunset between the two, there’s no hiding what the film wants to sell. Relationship arcs can be touching additions to films of other genres: see Frances’s several love-interests in Frances Ha; Unicorn Store just isn’t convincing. When love enters the story, it takes the wheel, foregoing development in most other areas so we can hear some of the cringiest dialogue to come out of the Netflix original content boom yet.
Fantasy and Samuel L. Jackson’s wig are the hooks of Unicorn Store: they’re practically the only reason I made it through. But too often the film derails into indie-romance, an area Brie Larson doesn’t exactly excel in. Her directing is calm, suffocating, and focused on the face: this coupled with the themes of childhood fear and relinquishing of dreams for better ones carry Unicorn Store into a niche for someone, though I’m not sure who could make it through this kind of dialogue. Overly-quirky, vapid, and flat, it’s everything Unicorn Store claims not to be.