If you have already heard of Unicorn Store, then you might already know that it is Academy Award winner Brie Larson’s passion project that she fought to direct and get made. When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, it failed to make much of splash; distributors feared it, critics were unsure what audience it was for and reviews were lukewarm at best. These reactions don’t coincide with the movie that I have just watched. Unicorn Store is a fantastic film about happiness, love and family. A film that was made for people like me, not quite a proper soulless adult anymore, but definitely not a child. A modern age fairy-tale.
Brie Larson plays Kit, a woman in her twenties with an obsession with unicorns, bright colours and interesting clothing. Her entire persona reminded me of Kimmy Schmidt because of her childlike wonder to almost everything in the world. Brie Larson shines as a spark of colour in a sea of beige and grey. Positivity radiates from her while also pulling off some of the film’s most heart-breaking moments.
Kit has been kicked out of art school for not conforming, her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) are quietly disappointed in her and her choices in life and compare her to semi-successful childhood friend Kevin (Karan Soni). To combat this, Kit decides to get a job at a temp agency and become a real working person. She wears her mum’s grey suit to blend in and work hard and whilst there receives a letter in a Hogwarts-like fashion, minus the owls and spells. It tells her to go to a store, where she is promised that she’ll find something and someone who will truly love her and that she will never be alone again.
This is where she meets the eccentric and loud Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) with a small afro, a pink suit and confetti in his hair. He acts as the fairy godmother character for this films fairy-tale, promising Kit a unicorn if she can prove she deserves it by completing a list of requirements. On her journey, she meets friends and has to come to terms with her relationships, new job and the ways of making hay that is edible by unicorns. Samantha McIntyre has written a fantastic script for a very colourful comedy, full of laughs, pure joy and great drama. It balances these brilliantly in a great juggling act leading up to its ending, which is genuine and emotional.
Unicorn Store was unfairly treated by previous festivals, mainly around knowing who the target audience is supposed to be. Larson was recently in the headlines for a quote about how she didn’t want to know what a white male critic thought of A Wrinkle in Time or other movies that did not meet expectations. Was this an outburst based on the reaction to her own movie? While I disagree and agree with some of what she was saying, I too can see why a constant questioning of who a film “was made for” might be valid in some cases, but in this movie, it is so clearly for everyone over the age of 15 who has ever been a kid.
The situation parallels the plot in some ways. There is a scene where Kit gives a presentation and the grey and beige boardroom just couldn’t quite connect with what she was trying to achieve. The same goes for the movie; it needs to be re-evaluated by those who were unsure on a first watch as it is sheer genius. It is a truly unique and individual comedy that tries to unlock your inner child and then come to terms with it.
Unicorn Store needs your help. It needs distribution. Like the movie’s unicorn, after being left out in the cold after its premiere it needs a suitable home full of love. If you’re in Edinburgh or near any festival that will be showing this over the next year, please support it and hopefully it will finally get a full general release.
Unicorn Store is playing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on the 29th and 30th June.