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Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
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Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
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Review: Brie Larson's "Unicorn Store"

by Anne Marie

With Captain Marvel crossing the $300million mark at the box office, Netflix has capitalized on Brie Larson's booming popularity to acquire her 2017 directorial debut. Unicorn Store is a coming-of-age comedy that happens to also star buddy and co-Avenger Samuel L. Jackson. And while Larson fans will enjoy watching the actress glitter (sometimes literally) across the screen for an untidy 92 minutes, ultimately the star's freshman effort comes off as more style than subsance.

Written by Samantha McIntyre (Married), Unicorn Store tells the self-consciously magical story of a twenty-something failed artist named Kit (Larson), who gets a second chance when she's offered the chance to fulfill her childhood dream...of owning a unicorn. After she fulfills some obligations, of course. The premise is purposely absurd, and for the most part, Larson adeptly navigates between the more magically bizarre scenes of straw-dying and stable-building, and the more quotidian (and creepy) B plot wherein Larson’s character tries to prove herself at a temp job with a predatory boss...

Through sheer force of will, Larson manages to keep these two disparate plots part of the same whole, but the resulting film feels shallow and messy.

Most characters, including Larson’s lead, come off as caricatures rather than people: The Imaginative Introvert (Brie Larson), The Hippy Parents (Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack), The Creepy Boss (Hamish Linklater), The Sensible Love Interest (Mamoudou Athie). Unfortunately, this by-the-numbers character creation keeps the film stuck in a familiar rut, not unlike that of the protagonist herself. Ironically in a film this visually busy, the script and direction fall prey to the trap of too much exposition, telling instead of showing the major narrative beats, and ultimately leading to a vague conclusion.

While Larson does fall into some of the narrative stumbling blocks of a first time director, two aspects of her directorial style absolutely stand out. First, Larson is a generous director for her actors, giving each of the admittedly very heavy-hitting talent in this film a chance to do a lot with very little. Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having the most fun as The Salesman, but Cusack and Whitford especially seem to have a ball as Kit's parents, two camp counselors sharing facts about kale and actualizing metaphors about rowing upstream. Secondly, Larson has a great sense of how costuming and art direction can feed plot. The most obvious example is Kit herself, as a character seemingly perpetually covered in glitter and neon paint, but subtle changes throughout the film indicate a sense of visual theme-building that the story otherwise lacks. Overall, while Unicorn Store might be a somewhat grating first feature, when Larson decides to hang up her red and blue spandex, it’ll be worth seeing what film she directs next. C-

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Reader Comments (3)

this trailer looked truly atrocious. I shall not be seeing this.

BUT I fully support Larson and Jackson becoming a recurring duo. Their back and forth was the best thing in Captain Marvel - an unexpectedly good pairing!

April 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I am disappoint.

April 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

I thought it was cute. While he's not always successful at it, it's nice when Jackson plays against type.

April 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

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