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“Unicorn Store” Marks A Whimsical Directorial Debut For Brie Larson

Brie Larson is undoubtedly one of the biggest actresses in the industry right now. Back at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, she debuted her directorial debut in Unicorn Store, a quirky tale that mixed comedy and drama in equal measure. Since then, the movie has been in limbo, ultimately getting picked up by Netflix in a larger overall deal with Larson. Over the weekend, the flick hit the streaming service, offering the masses another opportunity to see Larson in new material, hot on the heels of the uber success of Captain Marvel. Though nothing to rave about, this debut is a confident and charming one, proving that there’s little Larson can’t do.

The film is a dramedy about a potential influx of happiness into a woman’s life. Kit (Larson) has a strong artistic streak, but it’s not one easily understood. When art school doesn’t work out, she’s back home with her parents Gene (Bradley Whitford) and Gladys (Joan Cusack), completely at a loss. Kit takes a temp job at an advertising agency, catching the eye of her boss Gary (Hamish Linklater). At the same time, an invitation comes for a place called “The Store.” There, she meets The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson), who says they have what she needs. Deep in her heart, she’s always wanted a unicorn, ever since childhood, and that’s what he’s going to make happen. Employing Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), she sets out to build a stable for the unicorn, though the more she meets with The Salesman, the more she realizes this is about far more than just the magical animal. Larson directs a script from Samantha McIntyre, with music from Alex Greenwald and cinematography by Brett Pawlak. Supporting players here include Martha MacIsaac, Karan Soni, and more.

Whimsy is the guiding force here, fueling Larson’s debut behind the camera. Her movie is colorful and engaging, taking a somewhat thin premise and making it easily enjoyable. Glitter, rainbows, these are staples of the production design here. Larson keeps the scope small, closer to something that she would have appeared in years ago at the Sundance Film Festival, as opposed to her entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She had yet to join the MCU when she shot this, but as she becomes a huge A-lister, a smaller effort like this is a nice change of pace to see, without question.

Larson is reliably good as an actress here, while her directing is as confident as a veteran filmmaker. It never elevated itself to a level that would get you proclaiming your love from the rooftops, but for 90 minutes, she engages you in front of and behind the camera. Plus, in a nice bit of symmetry, after you see her in Captain Marvel, you can watch her spar a bit with Jackson here too. His supporting role is fairly quirky, though it’s clear he’s having an absolute blast with the part. Their scenes are the most humorous of the film, making for a nice mix in what otherwise could have come off as too twee.

Now available to stream on Netflix, Unicorn Store is a movie with personality to spare. It’s a perfect match for the streaming behemoth, as it’s a film best enjoyed as something you just lounge around on the couch and take in. The flick just wants to make you smile, and in the process, is actually able to become somewhat moving by the end. As much as anything else, it’s a pleasurable experience and further proof that Larson can just about do it all. Her future as a filmmaker is an exciting one, that’s for sure. This directorial debut hammers that home in a burst of glitter.

Be sure to check out Unicorn Store, now streaming on Netflix!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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