Unicorn Store (2017) ☆☆(2/4): A whimsical mess

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“Unicorn Store”, which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in late 2017 but only got released on Netflix yesterday, is a whimsical mess which is incoherent and confusing in terms of what is about as well as how it is about. As far as I can see, this is supposed to be a quirky little comedy about a flawed heroine struggling to get out of her state of arrested development, but the movie is not funny at all despite all those offbeat moments in the film, and it is actually tedious and annoying in its relentless quirkiness from time to time.

Brie Larson, who also directed the film, plays a young woman named Kit, who has recently got kicked out of her art college as showing no particular potential as an aspiring artist. In the opening scene, she zealously draws her abstract painting, but that does not impress her professor much, and I must confess that I agree to her professor’s written opinion, because the only thing to distinguish her, uh, artistic work from others’ is those bright rainbow colors which may remind you of your kindergarten years.

After that, Kit returns to her family house, where she is greeted by her irritatingly cheerful parents, played by Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford. They sincerely want Kit to join their activities for those emotionally troubled young people, but she is not interested at all, and we soon see her spending her days on a couch with a TV turned on all day long.

Anyway, after coming across a TV advertisement at one point, Kit eventually decides to get a job for making her life better, and she is subsequently employed at an advertising company, where she is usually tasked with several menial jobs including copying magazines while getting some inappropriate attention from her rather creepy supervisor play by Hamish Lincklater. Like the other supporting performers in the film, Linklater looks and sounds so offbeat and mannered that I occasionally wonder about how he was directed by Larson behind the camera.

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However, the most bizarre performance in the film comes from Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a mysterious (and suspicious) character who approaches to Kit on one day via sending her a very colorful invitation letter. While quite baffled about this invitation letter, Kit decides to go to a place which is simply called ‘The Store’, and then she encounters Jackson’s character, who surely impresses her a lot with his strikingly colorful attire and campy attitude as explaining what is going to be given to Kit.

Of course, as you have already guessed, the object in question is a unicorn, and Jackson’s character tells Kit that there are several requirements for getting a unicorn, and she does not have much problem in accepting the condition just because, well, it really looks and feels like to her that unicorns really exist. Larson tries to make this weird moment convincing as much as she can, but, alas, it is so preposterous from the beginning that it does not work at all even with a talented actress like her.

One of the requirements demanded by Jackson’s character is building a stable for the unicorn, and, because she does not know anything about building a stable, Kit comes to recruit a kind hardware store guy played by Mamoudou Athie, who does a bit more than functioning as the voice of reason in the movie. While often confounded by her odd aspects, Athie’s character is clearly attracted to Kit, and Athie’s no-nonsense acting conveys well to us why his character keeps hanging around Kit instead of instantly staying away from her.

Meanwhile, the movie continues to supply us lots of quirky moments. For instance, there is a predictable moment between Kit and her parents when she joins her parents’ activities for those emotionally troubled kids, and we later get a wacky moment of glittering exaggeration when Kit enthusiastically attempts to present her loony advertisement idea in front of her supervisor and other company executives.

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However, none of these and other supposedly comic moments in the film do not stick that well. The screenplay by Samantha McIntyre surely tries very hard in shoving whimsicality into its story, but the overall result is jumbled and disjointed to say the least, and we only find ourselves bored and annoyed while not so sure about how we should regard its story and characters.

“Unicorn Store” is the first feature film directed by Larson, who made two short films before her acting career became more prominent with “Short Term 12” (2013) and “Room” (2015). She certainly tries to expand the range of her talent here in this movie, and her efforts behind the camera are sometimes shown on the screen mainly through the constantly bright color scheme of the movie, but the movie is still a very disappointing dud on the whole. In addition, she and many other notable performers in the film are unfortunately wasted in their broad caricature roles, and this considerable waste of talent made me more depressed during my viewing.

In conclusion, “Unicorn Store” is not recommendable at all even if you are an ardent fan of Larson, and I strongly recommend you to watch “Short Term 12” and “Room” instead unless you can go to movie theater for watching “Captain Marvel” (2019), where Larson and Jackson are definitely more amusing and entertaining to watch in comparison. To be frank with you, I do not mind whimsicality at all, but “Unicorn Store” has too much of it, and it is not even interesting at all in my humble opinion.

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