Tone is a big thing. Switching things up can work, but when you do it all the time you’re on shakier ground.
Dismissed as an artist by her peers, intent on modern drab rather than Kit’s (Brie Larson) own colour-drenched creations, our heroine returns to the family home and the ever-vitalised Mum and Dad (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford). Deciding she’s going to purchase a unicorn from a pop-up, you guessed it, Unicorn Store, run by now four-time Larson-collaborator Samuel L. Jackson’s latest creation, those closest to Kit, predictably, doubt that her unicorn is coming in the post.
There are innumerable moments in this film of frivolous joviality and fantastic happenstance, intended to be measured by the more mundane and ordinary that Kit would not have pervade her life. Whether it be a visit to the store, the regrettably few moments we spend with Jackson or flourishes such an art critic cartoonishly commencing the film by drawing a big red line through Kit’s dreams, they are many and that is without getting into the film’s final act.
Clashing heavily with much else that transpires, it is not simply that these moments are intended to or do highlight how Kit’s attitude is different from those surrounding and the world around her. Rather, many of these instances occur independent of Kit’s action or inaction and seemingly belong to a wholly different style of film distinct from the more grounded universe to which we are more numerously exposed.
Yes this film is very much about reckoning with the unusual and uncommon, yet the touches that intend to render it as such accentuate predominantly that which does not avowedly advance Kit’s or our understanding of that with which Unicorn Store is most preoccupied; rather amassing themselves around less significant or inconsequential moments.
The manner of Kit’s parents exaggeratedly glowing approaches on one subject matter, for instance, contrast strongly with how we are otherwise caused to view them as both dourly-pragmatic and counters to Kit’s unicorn-frenzy. Not the only characters absent their own noticeable development and evidently present to be a sounding board for Kit, Mamoudou Athie is largely wasted here.
The one scene which does marry the film’s two divergent ends, occurring within a boardroom presentation, regretfully, having taken a few too many lessons from the likes of Brett Gelman’s output pauses for effect all too often and tardily; over-packing what could have been Unicorn Store’s best scene with a standalone stylistic flourish that did not belong.
Sure Larson is excellent as always yet her performance is not near enough to carry this misguided effort.
Unicorn Store is now streaming on Netflix