Movie Review: Unicorn Store
Unicorn Store is a film in the realm of magical realism. Kit, a disaffected art student, fails to garner success and finds herself in neutral, not knowing what to do with herself. That is until a mysterious note appears. The note tells her to visit The Store and once there, The Salesman makes her the offer of a lifetime for a real life unicorn. She just has to get her life together first. The film stars and is directed by Brie Larson. Samuel L. Jackson, Mamoudou Athie, Joan Cusack, and Bradley Whitford co-star.
My opinion of this film may be colored by the fact that Kit and I share a similar ennui when it comes to the norms of the world. We have people telling us our art is not going to make them money, so our art is not worthy of a voice or representation despite the art's own merits. She and I also share overactive imaginations and feelings of alienation and misunderstanding. She and I attempt to engage people not on their level, but on our unique one and risk pushing them away or getting frustrated that no one understands these incredible experiences like we do. What I'm getting at is that I really like this film despite its flaws.
I think where the film falters is not swaying enough in either direction. Kit has real world consequences to her actions, but she isn't given the big moments of change that could have made her rethink her behavior in deeper ways. That said, the whimsy also felt incomplete. I wanted a few more touches, a few more trips to The Store or careful drawings of adorable objects with additional creations for Kit's presentation. I also wish Kit could have come to her realizations about who her mother and father are to her and who Virgil is to her much sooner. I wanted for her to see how much she was able to give courage to everyone around her, just by being herself in a much bigger realization. It would have made her catharsis more complete and would have grown her past her selfishness.
Kit roams through the world as a bundle of energy and color she is herself and she expresses that self in what she wears. Even in the drab office culture she finds herself in, she's able to have a bright burst of color in her blouse underneath. In her non-work attire, Kit has wonderful solid color outfits, an incredible suit she puts on for her presentation, and accessories that show her love of certain cutsey things and also her understanding of the world with her prominent N.O.W. button. This is in contrast to the drab office drone attire worn by everyone around her, the earth tones of her parents who run a wilderness camp for teens to express their emotions and feelings and the safety vest Vigil sports when he's not clad in his more understated wardrobe. Yet, if Kit is able to bring life to everyone else, she's outdone by The Salesman. He's in a bright incredible pink and ends with a sky blue suit with tulips on it that I am dying to have in my closet. The costumes for the film are just perfect, much like the casting of the main characters.
Brie Larson is always a safe bet for a good performance, but the stand out of the film is Mamoudou Athie who plays Virgil. He's not an actor that would normally be cast in this type of role, but he really works as the love interest. Athie as Virgil is kind, willing to ride along in the strange world he finds himself in, and a person who ultimately takes a chance and stands up for himself. In a way Virgil's the anti-manic pixie as he's the straight lace guy who's swept up into this world. Instead of taking his love interest's strength, he feeds off her energy and redirects it to change his own life. He's not pushed into change, but open to it because he sees a better way. Athie really makes those choices grounded in his performance. He's able to turn a sort of trope into a full human being. I hope this film raises his profile because I want to see Athie get the girl many more times to come.
Unicorn Store will bring out your inner cynic, it will make you want to shout at Kit to grow up, and it will make you roll your eyes, but it also asks that for an hour and a half, you understand and believe that the systems designed for conformity just suck the big one. We are all individuals and our independent thoughts aren't a nuisance, our likes and dislikes aren't supposed to be the same, and what's popular, what sells, is not always what's right.
I think you should watch this film. I think you should put that voice inside your head away and think about what would make you truly happy. Think about all of the people in your life who really see you, like, really see that person deep down inside. Maybe give them a call, send them an e-mail, text them the inside joke from when you were ten or twenty-seven. Let the feeling of this movie wash over you as it's not a perfect film, but it's a damn good attempt and far more original than most of what's out there. Unicorn Store is now streaming on Netflix.