Failed artist Kit (Brie Larson) is living with her parents, but when she finally takes a “real” job, she finds herself inviting to the mystical Unicorn Store. There, The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) challenges her to believe in her impossible childhood dream: to own a unicorn.
Everyone has to grow up at some point, right? We’ve all had various dreams that didn’t come true, and some of them were unrealistic to begin with. But some of those crazy dreams actually came true, or at least drove us in the direction that carried us to new ideas and possibilities.
In the case of Kit, her art has been derided by a college professor who was the first artist to “put a stick in a box,” and repeatedly dismissed by parents who think that teams are “when everyone does the same thing.” Kit is in fact a free spirit in a buttoned-up world, but her desperation sends her seeking out normalized socialization in the form of a temp agency.
At the temp agency, Kit finds herself hit on by her awkward boss (Hamish Linklater) and invited into The Store by Jackson’s Salesman. He tells her she can get everything she needs, mainly a childhood hope of having a unicorn, but first she must be prepared to be the owner of said unicorn. So she sets out to figure out the pieces of unicorn ownership, like building it an appropriate house and meeting a host of weird loners like Virgil (Mamoudou Athie) on the way. But will she discover herself along the way, or simply realize that unicorns aren’t real?
The film is billed as a comedy, but it’s more of a subtle comic take on art and identity than a laugh out loud guffaw. [Think … Napoleon Dynamite.] Joan Cusack and Bradford Whitlow play Kit’s parents, who are often guilty of coddling Kit; Jackson and Linklater are funny in their own ways. But this is a more serious look at growing up through a whimsical lens and not letting everyone else determine what mold to fit you into. It seems more for college students than kids, but it’s about unicorns and rated PG, so families might get confused by the target audience.
Larson is always solid, whether it’s in Captain Marvel or Room. The film is full of Kit’s impetuous, artistic whimsy, and yet, bound by social convention. The audience will struggle to discover whether this is all real or just Kit’s inner emotional struggle embodying itself in unicorns and The Salesman. That mystery kept me hooked, even if I didn’t quite know where the film was going.
The Dove Take
Unicorn Store is reasonably benign, with a sprinkling of profanity, that can be approved for 12+ audiences but will most likely sail over the heads of younger audiences.