“The most grownup thing you can do is fail at the things you care about.”
Academy Award Winning Actress Brie Larson’s (Room, Short Term 12) directorial debut Unicorn Store had its world premiere at the most recent Toronto International Film Festival. Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack (both don’t need mentions of previous films, both are living legends), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, the best Sorkin show), Karan Soni (Deadpool) and newcomer Mamoudou Athie (The Get Down) star in the movie that Larson leads in a compelling way.
Larson plays Kit, a young woman who still lives in her childhood dreams and has to accept the idea of growing up which means maybe she has to give up on the dream of being an artist. But she is forced to reconsider her decision about growing up when The Salesman, played brilliantly by Jackson, offers her what she has desired the most since she was a child… A Unicorn.
There is no denying that Brie Larson is a great actress. I still remember seeing her in United States of Tara and then see her explode on the indie scene with Short Term 12 and then Room, for which she got a well-deserved Oscar. Is Unicorn Store a perfect movie? No, not at all. But is it a film that I was able to relate to as a twenty-something student who is now forced to confront the reality that not all my dreams will come true? Yes. Kit is a very flawed character, just like me, she cares mostly about herself and doesn’t think about how her actions might affect others.
When I first got out of my screening of Unicorn Store, I actually said that I was really surprised and that I loved it. I found flaws with it, but I didn’t want to look at them yet because I was just happy that I had seen a character that felt a lot like me in many ways. Kit has the same sense of humor then I do, she is dry and sarcastic, and that is everything that I love in character. Looking back, my opinion has changed a bit. I still love it. I still think that there are gems in it. But there are also a lot of flaws that make the movie less enjoyable.
I don’t know if I would be able to enumerate the flaws that I find in the film without a second viewing (something that I plan to do once the movie is out in theater) but I know that I have problems with the pacing of the film and its second act. Maybe it is because the movie seems to have lost itself in its premise and how it handles it. For a while, I thought that Samuel L. Jackson’s character didn’t actually exist and then the movie offers you a twist that makes sense only to twist it again. I won’t give it away, but I would have preferred if it would have maybe ended a different way? Not that I didn’t like the moral of the ending about growing up, I just felt that the whole movie I was presented with a type of character in Kit, only for her to completely change over a boy.
Since I said what bugged me the most about the movie, let me tell you what my favorite thing was. The acting. We all know most of these actors can act. We’ve seen some of them win Oscars, get nominated, make us laugh. But Mamoudou Athie as Virgil, the lovable love interest to Kit, is a revelation, TIFF even named him one of the rising stars of the festival. It is worth noting that he is also in a film that got a lot of praise out of Sundance, Patti Cake$. He plays a character that completes Kit. He is against every stereotype man that you usually see on film. Thoughtful, sweet, soft, funny, he is the type of guy that everyone mom wants for their daughter. And Athie infuses something into his performance that makes us swoon everytime he is on screen. The others are great (the trio of Larson, Cusack, and Whitford is particularly funny) but it is Athie who steals the show.
Unicorn Store is a movie for millennials and telling them that it is okay to feel lost. God knows I do. It has a hopeful message and even with its flaws I can look beyond it and enjoy what I am given. Do I wish some parts were different? Yes. But did I have fun and came out thinking that I could conquer the world if I believed in myself just like Kit did? Hell yes.