This review contains spoilers for the Netflix Original Movie Unicorn Store.
In college, I had the chance to interview an artist who designed a series of works based on a novella called Flatland. In the conversation, she told me about how the real world attempts to flatten people and put them in neat little boxes, and how it’s especially present in the professional world.
After the interview, I sent the artist a link to the interview, and she emailed back saying “Thanks for the article, Lauren. It as a pleasure talking with you. Don’t get flattened.” This exchange came to mind immediately after watching Unicorn Store.
Brie Larson’s feature-length directorial debut Unicorn Store has a very poignant core and powerful message for young professionals: don’t lose yourself to achieve success.
Kit (Larson) has been kicked out of art school and has to move back in with her parents. She’s taken a job at a temp agency and is trying to get on a respectable path when she gets an invite to The Store where The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) proclaims to have what she needs to be happy: a unicorn.
Unicorn Store follows Kit as she completes certain vague tasks to ready her home for her new companion with the help of a Virgil (Mamoudou Athie) from the hardware store, and her co-worker Sabrina (Martha MacIsaac), and ultimately realizes that she may not need a mystical creature to make her happy.
The film is written with a dry, sarcastic humor that works very well turning everything in this film is a self-aware parody of typical culture.
Unicorn Store accomplishes a hint social commentary by introducing a lot of characters as one-dimensional, but that’s a bad thing especially since these characters get an opportunity for growth over the movie’s 90-minute run time.
If you believe the phrase, “it’s funny because it’s true,” then Unicorn Store leans into how offices and adulting works and steers into it ready to hold a mirror up to some societal flaws.
It’s especially prevalent at the agency where Kit works. Sabrina trains her but asks the simplest questions to figure out if Kit can copy magazines into a copier. Later, Sabrina also says how there’s a Dateline episode on about young professional women being murdered and she “should probably watch that.”
One of the few characters who doesn’t grow over the course of the movie is Kit’s boss Gary.
Gary talks about how a lack of creativity in this company is killing him and encourages her to come up with something for the presentation of the Mystic Vacuum. The inner-office politics point out that this is something that Gary does with all the temps and is sexual harassment, that Kit’s not special. But Kit takes the challenge and she goes on to deliver a dynamic presentation about the vacuum.
However, when push comes to shove, they would rather go for a woman in lingerie than take a chance on Kit’s new ideas, steering back into the idea that sex sells.
One very genuine part of this film is Gene (Bradley Whitford) and Gladys (Joan Cusack). Kit’s parents run a camp called Emotional Quest and are attempted to get Kit back on her feet. They do a lot of active listening as they try to pick up on Kit’s feelings, and while they have the best intentions the topics make it very easy to see Kit’s frustration.
There’s something Kit’s story that resonates with trying to hold onto who you are and what makes you happy. The story is about a woman who gets the chance to own a unicorn, but the overall arc is about a woman who doesn’t give up.
Kit’s been knocked down from her dream, judged by a bunch of professors who have deemed her artwork “poor” and she has to figure out what’s next. She’s trying to please her parents but at the expense of herself, and the unicorn comes in offering her a source of unconditional love.
The hoops that Kit has to jump through to get her unicorn are very believable, and honestly parallel considerations anyone should take into account when you’re adopting a pet. Kit has to make sure it has adequate food and shelter, she goes to the library to get some information about unicorns. It’s fantastical, but it’s not without a real-world parallel.
The concept behind Unicorn Store may make you think of rainbows and flowers and bright colors, but the overall look of this film is very much grounded in reality. Save for the set of The Store. It’s only when Kit starts to embrace what makes her happy that her wardrobe and the colors turn and Kit’s clothes get brighter and she starts to resemble the Kit we glimpse briefly at her painting exhibition in the opening scenes.
As the movie concludes, the audience is left with a happier Kit that can be true to herself. She has embraced her inner child, she’s no longer concerned just with success, and she realizes that she doesn’t need something else to love her.
When she ultimately meets her unicorn and she starts talking to it about all the memories she has of being a kid, it’s heartbreaking to watch, but when she decides to let the unicorn go it’s also a sign of maturity. Getting a unicorn might have been her dream, but she doesn’s need it anymore. She’s found a deeper connection with her parents and Virgil and realized she’s not alone.
Unicorn Store is a fanciful movie steeped with some magical rainbow elements, but its strength lies in the overarching message and the amazing performances.
What did you think of Unicorn Store? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Unicorn Store is now available on Netflix.
Want more from Tell-Tale TV? Subscribe to our newsletter here!