Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store seems to take place in a neighbouring universe to that of Boots Riley’s celebrated Sorry to Bother You. Though it has less of an anarchic agenda, Unicorn Store combines surreal magical realism with some deft critique of the homogeneity of corporate America and, like Riley’s film, is worth watching for the stupendous costume and production design alone. There is, though, far more to recommend it.
Another team-up for Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, who showcased their greatness as an acting duo in Captain Marvel, is surely enticement enough for many. Unicorn Store is easy money for Jackson, who’s played many iterations of the candy-hued dandy he embodies here.
Alongside Jackson, Unicorn Store features fine work from some very esteemed actors in supporting roles, yet it’s the growing pains of art-school dropout Kit (Larson) that define the film’s arc. And what an arc it is. This is a work of exceptional sensitivity; a tale of acute loneliness and despair awash with an infectious and laudable optimism.
Samantha McIntyre’s screenplay – an absolute slam-dunk of a first feature credit – walks a tonal tightrope that Larson’s vision proves well suited for. It’s sharp and witty, with an extremely specific and well-crafted dry sense of humour that crackles satisfyingly in the performances – particularly those of Joan Cusack and Larson herself – and in the decisive editing. The snappy comic timing provides several brief bursts of joyful surprise, yet Unicorn Store is grounded in a deep, observational engagement with the human condition.
Taking on a potentially twee and childish premise, Larson has created a bold and colourful world for McIntyre’s earnest, soulful and relatable tale of personal growth. Rarely do a writer and director cohere this well. Here’s hoping Unicorn Store announces the arrival of not one but two new cinematic voices.
CAST: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Joan Cusack
DIRECTOR: Brie Larson
WRITER: Samantha McIntyre
SYNOPSIS: A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams.