Unicorn Store

TIFF 2017: Unicorn Store Review

Special Presentations/ Next Wave

Unicorn Store is an earnest, colourful and generally enjoyable film. While some of the plot points stagger, its nonconformist message does pick up where some aspects fall off. It’s in its absurdity that the film is most interesting. While parts of the movie fall short, I appreciated what it was attempting to depict, even under all of the glitter and construction paper, it does bring something unique to the table. Not the kind of “unique” that propels lost souls into art school but the kind that teeters toward Jacques Tati’s early work.

Unicorn Store follows Kit (Brie Larson, who also directs), an art school reject looking to find a sense of purpose in life. Not soon after starting a temp job, found through hours of television watching, Kit begins getting letters about a store. The store, as she finds out, is run by The Salesman (Samuel L Jackson) and sells only unicorns. There’s a catch to getting the unicorn, though. Kit must get her shit together and build her unicorn a home, have food for it and give it a loving home – all things that fit the typical mold of “growing up”. Unicorn Store is not a typical film, though.

Humour is played in different, sometimes unbalanced ways in the film. At times, it seemed aware of its absurdity and others it was more unclear. Brie Larson isn’t a stranger to comedy, though, and her sometimes Tati-esque delivery really aided in making the film unabashedly enjoyable. Despite Kit’s relatively typical and certainly well-trodden early 20s experience, Larson brings her own unique charm to the film. Kit is never unlikable, even when she is throwing a tantrum at her parents or perpetually prioritizing her needs over everyone else. Ultimately, every single secondary character is perfectly placed and oddly relatable despite how endearingly quirky they all are. The most skeezy character, Kit’s boss Gary (Hamish Linklater) is also the best comic relief of the film.

The film is also very visually appealing. It sheds the typified Instagram-filter feel of “quirky” film and presents a genuinely interesting visual palate. Impossibly bright colours are often paired with more drab seventies style colours, which works to highlight the most important and more enjoyable plot points. If Unicorn Store were to be read as an allegory – which I am fairly certain that was the point – it would be about doing what you believe in to achieving your dreams, but the film makes a far more important comment than that. While Unicorn’s aren’t real, the need to work toward something that isn’t truly attainable if you’re not given the right tools certainly is. And even if you are given the tools, finally having what you’ve always wanted isn’t always all it’s cracked out to be.

Unicorn Store’s strongest draw was the vaguely nihilistic message under all of the glitter and laughs.


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