Actress Brie Larson makes her directorial debut with ethereal and glittery Netflix original Unicorn Store.
The coming-of-age comedy follows Kit (played by Larson herself), a 20-something art school dropout whose passion for fantasy and sparkles was deemed unimpressive by her minimalist professors. Just as Kit moves back in with her parents and takes a temp job at a public relations office, she receives an invite to the Unicorn Store and meets an eccentric salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) who promises Kit he can sell her heart’s greatest desire: a unicorn. But first, Kit must prove she’s a capable unicorn owner, by creating a loving and stable home.
DIRECTOR: Brie Larson
Brie Larson’s directorial debut follows a 20-something art school dropout as she attempts to earn her heart’s greatest desire: a unicorn that will love you forever.
Larson utilizes many stereotypes about millennials in Unicorn Store—that they are too idealistic, end up living in their parents’ basements, fail to hold normal jobs, and that they’re lazy, delusional, and unreliable. Kit checks off all of these characteristics to the point that her ultimate dream isn’t a career or a way of life; it’s a mythical creature that will love you forever.
Along with Larson and Jackson, Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford portray Kit’s well-meaning but suffocating helicopter parents. They and Hamish Linklater, who plays Kit’s creepy boss, focus most of their energy on reinforcing archetypes. Kit’s parents, for example, perfectly portray the type of parents millennials are known to have—the ones that babied their children and never helped them grow up to be adults. Kit’s boss, Gary, represents the stereotypical baby-boomer boss who sexually harasses new, young employees until they feel forced to quit their job. Newcomer Mamoudou Athie plays Kit’s love interest Virgil, a millennial who earns a job promotion by learning new skills with YouTube videos.
At first, it feels like Larson and scriptwriter Samantha McIntyre employed all these cliches to mock the millennial generation. But as the film progresses, it becomes more clear that Larson and McIntyre want to make fun of the attitude that surrounds quixotic 20-somethings. Unicorn Store is actually an ode to the idealistic millennial. Kit shows her professors that she’s filled with creativity and they scoff at her originality. She takes a job at a temp agency to “grow up,” but then the second person she encounters at work is an old dude who pretends to care about her career advancement because he wants to sleep with her. Her baby-boomer PR firm complains its ads lack originality, but then they choose a highly sexualized and sexist campaign over a creative one. Millennials, like Kit, try to play the “adulting” game and often still get burned.
McIntyre is exceptionally hilarious with her subtle humor and buries witty Easter eggs throughout the plot. When Kit watches TV at home, for example, all of the commercials speak to her situation, including the one for her temp agency—which is called Temporary Success—and caters to college dropouts living in their parents’ basement.
A lot of the dialogue, however, did not carry the same humor and fell flat. Jackson had the potential to be the standout of the film, but he gets forgotten. Even Larson, as Kit, has a far more temperate personality than would be expected. The film’s biggest downfall is that the purpose of the film never fully actualizes and when the film concludes, it feels unfinished.
At its core, Unicorn Store wants to be a celebration of childlike wonder and following your ambitions. Kit struggles as she becomes jaded by the realities of the real world and decides to let go of her childhood dreams. Her unicorn could be seen as a symbol for unconditional love. All of the jaded adults in the film think Kit is crazy to believe in it, yet it appears once you learn how to cultivate healthy relationships with the people in your life. It’s seemingly unattainable, like a unicorn, but it’s “what you want; what you need.”
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