Maturity is a feat often misunderstood. To my mind, it regards how you deal with the issues of the adult world – do you come to terms with and accept them, or do you ignore them hoping that they’ll go away? Is it more ‘grown-up’ to tone yourself down for the sake of other people, or to unabashedly embrace your flaws?
These unavoidable questions can be applied to relationships both romantic and otherwise, career aspirations, and most importantly for Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store, your own uncompromising sense of self.
Beginning with a montage of the protagonist Kit’s early artistic leanings – mostly using glitter as her medium – the stage is immediately set for an exploration of the creative self. This continues with her unceremonious art school suspension, and her subsequent employment at a temp agency.
If this sounds like the start of another mumblecore millennial musing on being artistically crushed by The Man, you’re not wrong – but the magical realism that kicks in at the end of the first act really makes Unicorn Store something special.
As suggested by the title, Kit finds herself receiving numerous invitations to the mysterious ‘store’, helmed by a wonderfully whimsical Samuel L. Jackson going against type, which offers her the chance of a lifetime: to own a real-life unicorn.
Though the presence of magic and unexplainable events isn’t just metaphorical, Kit’s pursuit of the unicorn is certainly encouraged by Larson to be interpreted allegorically. Whether the unicorn is seen by the viewer as a successful relationship, realizing your full creative potential, or simply achieving some level of contentment, Kit’s quest for fulfilment feels more universal than the oddness of the story may initially suggest.
Matching the plot concept in boldness, the stylistic decisions made by Larson for this vibrant movie form a perfect symbiosis with the previously mentioned thematic concerns. At the start of the film, Kit is dressed like a child’s idea of a fairy princess, but is stuck in a world of rigid lines and cold beige.
The cinematography, while sometimes a little too shaky for my liking, shines in the static moments where Kit is trapped in her surroundings, framed by her difference. But the most delightful visuals in my mind were the ones that featured most heavily in the trailer, and rightfully so; watching a delighted, childlike Kit smear and blow pastel paints far beyond her canvas gave me a vicarious surge of wonder and pure joy.
Here I arrive at the only issue I truly had with this film – the rather blatant writing. Though it comes off as an intentional choice, I still found the characters’ tendency to tell rather than show rather off-putting, and this came close at times to undermining the visual storytelling so beautifully done by Larson.
Yes, having a team of suited professionals say outright that they hate rainbows and like sexy women does get your point across, but I couldn’t help feeling it could have been achieved far more subtly and intelligently.
Unicorn Store is the very definition of a passion project. Brie Larson dominates every frame of this film with both her spacey, childlike performance onscreen and her clear control of every creative choice behind the scenes. Because of this, I actually feel as though Netflix was the ideal platform for this movie – watching it on my laptop at night made the whole experience feel far more intimate, fitting for a film with interiority and imagination as one of its main themes. Anyone with an account should check out this film, even the non-whimsically inclined, and watch Larson demonstrate a talent you may have not known she has.
Put her at the directorial helm again, and we’ll see if this unicorn magic can be repeated.
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