It is a truth universally acknowledged that life is boring. The real world can smack you about the face a bit. And often you’ll find that life, post-education, is all bills, credit, and putting food on the table. After flunking art school, Kit is slumped on the couch at her parent’s house wondering what on earth to do. It's a world that seems to have no time for her love of rainbow colours and glitter collages.
Unicorn Store is the directorial debut of Brie Larson, who also stars as Kit. The opening montage is of her entire life in home videos where she lavishes paint and glitter on everything she sees. However, it peaks on her being scored as ‘poor’ in every subject at art school. So when we see her slumped within the first 5 minutes of the movie it is clear that this is a woman who has had her life goals crushed.
The movie takes Kit through a very whimsical and offbeat comedy fantasy trip. She lands a job in a dull as dishwater PR company via the temping agency ‘Temporary Success’. But soon starts receiving mysterious invites to ‘The Store’. There, a shiny-suited salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) promises her that not only are unicorns real, but she can have one if she proves herself worthy.
Larson is fantastic both in directorial flare and wide-eyed wonder performance. Her character is quite childlike and petulant at times, but this fits in with the overall tone of the movie – that it’s heartbreaking for childish glee to be squashed, so why not try to embrace it? The movie has few other characters but, almost like a gentle Burton-esque social satire, they are mostly larger than life caricatures that deliver fun dialogue and mannerisms.
Kit’s parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) run the Emotion Quest retreat for troubled teens. Their loving earnestness is both sweet and infuriating but in a good way. When Kit needs to build a stable for her incoming unicorn, she hires hardware store employee Virgil (Mamoudou Athie). He adds a nice sense of normality for Kit to spin around. He is constantly perplexed by her, which makes their developing relationship a nice core for the surrounding weirdness. Even the vice president of the company she works for (the odd and creepy Hamish Linklater) makes a fun watch as he monotones about vacuum cleaner ad campaigns.
I found myself smiling throughout Unicorn Store. The humour is understated and dialogue driven. The performances are all slightly hyper-real, and the swathes of colour that adorn the screen gave it a Technicolor dream-like quality. It achieves a sugar coated quality without being sickly. It’s intelligent enough to poke holes in Kit’s immaturity whilst also letting you be swept up in her wonder. And come the end of the movie when multi-coloured lights shimmer across Kit’s awestruck face, you can’t help but feel totally in the moment with her.
If Unicorn Store is anything to go by, Brie Larson’s directorial career is definitely going to be one to watch.
Words by Michael Record