Though playing minor roles, 2017’s “Unicorn Store” shares two actors in common with our last review for “Always Be My Maybe”. What better reason to follow that one up with this one?
“Unicorn Store” is the directorial debut of Brie Larson (yes, Captain Marvel herself). She also stars as Kit, a 20-something who failed as an artist and moved back in with her parents to figure out what to do next with her life. Her parents, played by the always acceptable Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford, are youth counselors obsessed with eating kale.
Brie’s Kit is later joined by Samuel L. Jackson as The Salesman. After receiving a series of incredibly specific cards with her name on it, Kit finds herself at a place called The Store where she meets The Salesman who promises her a unicorn if she can fulfill the necessary requirements. As Dungeons & Dragons as it sounds, the financial disclosure agreements included in the many, many contracts she is forced to sign are by no means a fantasy.
For all its humor, “Unicorn Store” takes itself just seriously enough to have heart. Kit is depressed after being rejected as an artist and ejected (she was attending an art school) from the art world altogether. As such, she struggles with her own self-worth and finding a place in the real world when she has spent most of her life in the fantasy world of her own art, and, as we learn, the fantasy world of having an imaginary unicorn friend named Steve.
To show up Kevin, a youth counselor she thinks her parents love more, Kit answers one of those horrible daytime television ads about temporary work, and soon finds herself out in the real world. Not to assume everything Brie Larson does has to have a feminist twist, but Kit’s plight as a temp read to me as a commentary on the difficulty of being a woman in the modern age:
- She is treated as an “other” by female coworkers who immediately dislike her for the preference she gets from the company’s vice president, Gary (Hamish Linklater).
- Gary gets as close to making this a story about sexual harassment in the workplace as he can without that subplot ever becoming the film’s focus.
- Her idea for an ad campaign for a vacuum cleaner is rejected by an all-male room.
- The competing ad campaign is literally just a picture of a sexy woman using a vacuum.
- The woman whose company wants the ad campaign dismisses her ideas as being childish before turning to Gary for validation of her opinion.
“Unicorn Store” has plenty of humor and heart to be worth a watch, but the messaging and commentary really make it interesting to me, a fellow millennial, forced to contend with the evil baby boomers and their harshing of our vibes. That last line is a bit of a joke, but this is a movie for those of us who have to grow up later in life by growing into ourselves and finding a place to grow safely in the cruel world of work and adulthood and bills and taxes and responsibilities.
Kit sees herself as an artist and sees herself as someone who can add something unique to the world-at-large. Being rejected on both ends, both artistic and corporate, ends up not mattering because in her pursuit of a unicorn, she finds people who appreciate and respect her as she is and learns that everyone needs a little fantasy to escape the bullshit of their lives. She’s not unique in that, as a millennial or otherwise, because we all know life sucks.
But with a little glitter, and the hope of getting a unicorn, the suck is less.
(Also, this is well-directed and well-acted. Brie is a much more interesting actress when she can emote, which is my biggest complaint about her role as Captain Marvel thus far. That said, I know how triggering [legitimately-so] it can be to say I wish she smiled more, so I won’t!)