After failing out of art school and taking a humdrum office job, a whimsical painter gets a chance to fulfil her lifelong dream of adopting a unicorn.
Initial release: April 11, 2019
Director: Brie Larson
Music composed by: Alex Greenwald
Production companies: Sycamore Pictures, Rip Cord Productions
Producers: Brie Larson, Ruben Fleischer, Lynette Howell, Terry Dougas, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, David Bernad
Unicorns are almost universally associated with girlhood. The desire for the horned creature to be real stems from the same impulse that gives us “horse girls,” sent Robot Unicorn Attack viral, and popularized Lisa Frank. That level of fantasy — those bright colors, that glitter — can only exist free of the responsibilities and monotony of adulthood. Adult women wear suits, take their lives seriously, eat kale, and long for “bikini-ready” bodies. Or so Netflix’s Unicorn Store would have you believe.
The ambition behind Brie Larson’s directorial debut is admirable. Learning to grow up while still being yourself is an endlessly repeatable lesson where movies are concerned, and it’s told less often from the perspective of young women. However, the script, written by Samantha McIntyre (and which Larson actually auditioned for — and failed to get — some years ago), is so intent on embracing the “be yourself” ethos that it exposes the limitations of its own message.
The very first scene of Unicorn Store — a montage of home videos of a precocious child melts into footage of Kit (Larson), now grown, energetically painting the wall — sets the tone for everything that follows. By the end, there’s colorful paint splotched perfectly over her face and clothes, and she finishes off her masterwork by blowing glitter onto the canvas. When she turns around, it’s revealed that she’s in the middle of an art class. Everyone else has painted within the canvas, and has dressed in dark colors in contrast to Kit’s white or rainbow-patterned clothing. Her instructor gives her a failing grade, and disapprovingly shakes his head.
It’s rare that the stars of the year’s biggest movie reunite for an entirely separate feature film a month later, but that’s not exactly what happened with Unicorn Store, a new movie hitting Netflix on Friday. It’s the second 2019 film starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson; the first, Captain Marvel, will likely remain the highest-grossing movie of the year until Avengers: Endgame (definitely co-starring Larson, possibly co-starring Jackson) comes out on April 26th. Technically, though, Captain Marvel is a Unicorn Store reunion. Larson directed the film a few years ago, after she won an Oscar for Room but before she suited up as a Marvel superhero. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, and now Netflix has picked it up for wider distribution.
At first glance, Larson’s feature directorial debut bears no resemblance to the space-faring Captain Marvel, entry number 21 in the world’s biggest franchise. But for fans of Larson’s Marvel Cinematic Universe film who reacted to more than just its place in the ongoing Marvel narrative, Unicorn Store works decently well as a companion piece.