Unicorn Store Review: Larson’s feature directorial debut is a relatably whimsical must-watch
In her feature directorial debut, Brie Larson comes together with writer Samantha McIntyre to create an experience that invigorates child-like wonder in its viewers and relays some timeless messages that are genuinely relatable.
The film follows Kit (Larson), a young artist whose childhood dreams of expression, independence, and unicorns are dashed by a terrifying plague, known commonly as adulthood. Feeling little support for her passion from everyone around her, Kit ultimately gives into getting a temp job even though she has no strong desires towards it. However, things change when Kit is invited to a secret store by a man called The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) and gives her the opportunity to achieve her childhood dream of owning a unicorn. Now Kit must follow The Salesman’s rules in order to get her beloved unicorn and deal with her own issues of self-worth and facing reality.
Honestly, Unicorn Store is not only an excellent first outing for Larson as a director, but I would even argue that this is one of her best performances to date. There’s a clear sense of genuine passion that comes from her performance and Larson really gives it her all in each scene. With her incredible acting range, Larson does an excellent job highlighting Kit’s social awkwardness, which leads to some charmingly quirky lines, and her internal struggles to accept her own worth. Frankly, Larson shows how incredibly capable she is both in front of and behind the camera in creating complex female characters and creating messages through Kit’s story that viewers can relate to.
McIntyre’s writing and Larson’s depiction of Kit really emphasizes the film’s desire to showcase internal struggle for acceptance. Throughout the film, Kit constantly runs into situations where her sense of creativity and ideas are shutdown by those around her, leaving her feeling inferior and disappointed by herself. For instance, Kit is often compared to Kevin (Karan Soni), a boy who Kit’s parents always see as more successful than her, making her feel unaccomplished in her parents’ eyes.
Truthfully, I love these themes, even if they’ve been seen before, as they are incredibly fitting for viewers just entering adulthood and Kit’s desires to relive childhood fantasies and dreams is something that’s tough not to relate to. Not to mention, when Kit finally opens up her feelings to her parents and new friends she makes, there’s some great emotional honestly about her insecurities and some nice reflective dialogue about self-acceptance and self-worth that I think many viewers, especially women, can relate to. There’re even some nice moments that delve into Kit’s social awkwardness that leads her to believe that those around find her annoying and unrelatable that I really enjoy, and it does double duty in both creating an emotional pull to Kit as well as creating humorous moments throughout the film.
The film’s humor definitely reflects the social awkwardness of Kit, and other characters, and works in creating plenty of funny moments that hit way more than they miss. There’re definitely some jokes that don’t land much and this kind of drier humor isn’t for everyone, but I found it to be incredibly fitting for Kit’s character and Larson even utilizes it for some funny visual and audio gags. From having the TV tell Kit how disappointing she is to her awkward interactions with her boss (Hamish Linklater) and pretty much everyone else, Larson utilizes McIntyre’s dialogue to create some awkwardly funny moments with, what I would say, is the perfect cast.
No, seriously, this cast is perfect for their roles and helps Larson as they all come together to create some endearing and humorous moments. I think this is the most positive-minded and joyous performance I’ve seen from Jackson as The Salesman. Normally, I’m used to having his characters be intimidating or having some kind of yelling monologue, mostly because I’m sure he’s contractually obligated to have one in each of his movies. However, even for not being in Unicorn Store much, Jackson creates a friendly presence for himself and if you’ve been waiting for someone like Jackson to genuinely talk about unicorns, rainbows, and everything nice, Unicorn Store is the film you need to see.
There’s also a great supporting performance from Mamoudou Athie as Virgil as he brings some light-hearted logic to Kit’s life. Athie has some fun dialogue and brings a great sense of clarity that lets Kit open up about her struggles. He perfectly matches Larson’s awkward humor and the two create some solid scenes together. Even Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack are perfect as Kit’s parents as their slow-growing issues with Kit’s desires to not face reality leads to some great scenes where they confront and attempt to comfort Kit when reality hits her hard.
It’s also worth mentioning that the visual look of the film is awesome with the more grounded color palettes of Kit’s workplace mixing with the more fantasy, rainbow colored style of Kit. The set and costume design of Unicorn Store is incredibly pleasing to the eye and just seeing Kit’s outfits make you really believe your seeing a little girl’s fantasy come to life. Whether its Kit wearing a jacket full of random patches or her wearing a colorfully striped shirt that seems straight out of a candy store, Kit’s vibrant creativity is present throughout the film. It also nicely reflects her inner child coming out as she gets closer to getting her unicorn as her outfits, room, and lifestyle become brighter and more whimsical as she gets closer to achieving her dream.
Unicorn Store is a perfect storm of whimsical fantasy and grounded, relatable themes that Larson and McIntyre have come together to create. Larson shows that she is a true force to be reckoned with on both sides of the camera and succeeds in showcasing her true desire to create impactful, female driven stories. Hopefully, there won’t be a long wait to see her behind the camera again as her first outing is definitely a must-watch.