Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mamoudou Athie
Director: Brie Larson
Running Time: 91 mins
Unicorn Store is an American film about a young woman who, after losing her job, moves back in with her parents and takes up a position as a temp.One day, she comes across a mysterious place called ‘The Store’, which promises to sell her exactly what she needs.
Combining bright ideas, likable characters, and an impressively dynamic look into the lives of young adults in the modern world, Unicorn Store is a really engrossing film, and one that blends genuine real world drama with deliriously wonderful fantasy to make for an uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable watch throughout, furthered by two top-notch lead performances and passionate, albeit not quite bulletproof, directing from Brie Larson on her feature debut.
At the outset, this film may look a little on the cheesy, simple side, following a young woman as she attempts to recover from a sacking and a string of failures in her life. And, if you want to, you can watch Unicorn Store in that way just as well, however I found that there’s really quite a lot more to it.
With the exception of a rather rocky and out-of-place opening ten or fifteen minutes, where it is all a little on the cheesy, generic side, Unicorn Store develops this fascinating insight into the lives and mindset of so many young people in modern society that’s both relatable and deeply interesting, refraining from a whining, superficial critique of the world we live in nowadays, and instead taking on problems and offering up a really uplifting way to go about solving them.
Of course, there are times where you can say that this film has got its head a little bit in the clouds, but the screenplay makes a good effort to bring the story back down to earth at those moments where things do feel like they’re getting a little cheesy or overly positive. In that, it brings about a really impressive and unique balance between the idealism and pessimism of the millenial generation, in a manner that I can’t say I’ve ever seen on screen before.
And that key theme, the frustrated split ideology of the youth of today, is borne out ingeniously by the film’s clever foray into the world of fantasy. In a style that’s a little reminiscent of Safety Not Guaranteed, Unicorn Store takes on a real world topic and setting, but makes it far more striking by adding just a dash of fantasy. It’s not enough to transport you to a far away land, but it hits the perfect beats when it comes to drawing a line between the the world of dreams and reality.
In that, Brie Larson’s direction really has to be commended, and even more so given it is her directorial debut. Juggling two mindsets that are such polar opposites in the movie world, as well as trying to bring fantasy and real world drama together, is hugely difficult, yet Larson directs with passion and purpose throughout, and despite the odd weak moment where you think the film is beginning to lose its way, she always manages to bring it back with a series of very clever twists of fate.
So, while Unicorn Store has the drama and depth to prove a genuinely riveting watch, Larson injects it with enough passion and wide-eyed wonder to make it a really uplifting and lovely movie too. Couple that with Larson’s effortlessly likable performance, as well as a real stand-out turn from her co-star Mamoudou Athie, and you have a film that will both make you smile, and keep you genuinely engrossed all the way through.
If there is one area where Unicorn Store falls down, it has to be the comedy. If you’re watching this just for laughs, then you’ll likely be disappointed. It’s not that Unicorn Store is a totally unfunny movie, but a lot of the outright humour really doesn’t land, particularly in the opening act. If you go with the story, and wrap yourself up in the fascinating perspective into the millenial ideology, then you’ll definitely find the film a lot more enjoyable, but even I, as much as I liked it, didn’t find myself laughing much through Unicorn Store.
Overall, then, I really had a great time with this movie. While it’s not bulletproof all the way through, lacking in punchy comedy and occasionally losing its way at times, Unicorn Store is a fascinating, passionate and striking film, with hugely impressive directing and acting from Brie Larson, as well as a unique, challenging, and equally uplifting insight into the modern world. It’s an engrossing watch, but it’s a really nice, lovely one too, and that’s why I’m giving Unicorn Store a 7.9.