Unicorn Store is a 2017 American fantasy comedy film directed and produced by Brie Larson (in her feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Samantha McIntyre. It stars Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Karan Soni, Mamoudou Athie, Mary Holland, and Hamish Linklater.
Official release poster
|Directed by||Brie Larson|
|Written by||Samantha McIntyre|
|Music by||Alex Greenwald|
|Edited by||Jennifer Vecchierello|
Kit (Brie Larson), a failed artist, moves back in with her parents (Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford) and takes a temp job at an advertising agency. At work, Kit meets the vice president of the company, Gary (Hamish Linklater), who is extremely awkward and makes inappropriate advances towards her.
Shortly after starting the job, Kit receives a mysterious letter from "The Salesman" (Samuel L. Jackson) who invites her to "The Store," the place that sells "what you need." The Salesman offers Kit the chance to fulfill her childhood fantasy of owning a unicorn. Kit must prepare for ownership of a unicorn by meeting specific requirements detailed in files given to her by the Salesman. The first file outlines how to provide an adequate enclosure for the unicorn to live in. Kit hires Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), a hardware store employee, to build a stable but does not tell him what she needs it for. Soon, they begin to talk and spend time together. The second file tells Kit she must prepare to feed the unicorn. Kit and Virgil buy hay on a day trip together and get to know each other better.
Gary offers Kit an opportunity to present a marketing pitch for a vacuum cleaner. During this time, Kit receives the next file and learns she must be able to surround the unicorn with a loving environment, but recognizes that her dysfunctional relationship with her parents keeps her from doing so. On the weekend Kit should be preparing her presentation for work, she goes on an "Emotion Quest" wilderness trip with her parents and confronts them during the 'truth circle' time, leading to a family discussion. The discussion turns into an argument, furthering tensions between her and her parents.
Once Kit returns home, she finds inspiration for her presentation and begins working through the night. Kit finds out in her next file that she must show that she can provide for the unicorn financially.
Kit's presentation is flamboyant and is not received well by the business executives, who watch in stunned silence. The executives unanimously opt for a different pitch which features an attractive model. Kit leaves her job. On a date with Virgil, he asks her to reveal the secret of the stable's purpose. Kit tells him about the unicorn store, and she brings him to it, only to find that it is now abandoned. Kit's confusion turns to anger as she feels betrayed by the Salesman. Virgil becomes concerned for Kit, telling her that she's been conned, but assuring her that he doesn't think she's crazy. Kit exits angrily, and leaves Virgil standing in the store, where he notices a sweep of hay on the ground.
Kit gives up on her dream of owning a unicorn and throws out all of her art and supplies. After a healing moment with her mother, Kit reaches out to Virgil and visits his store, but is unable to get in touch with him. She leaves an apologetic message on his voicemail, and later finds that Virgil has finished the stable, decorating it with the artwork that she had thrown out.
The Salesman calls to let Kit know the unicorn has arrived. When she hesitates, the Salesman tells her there is another woman who is waiting if Kit doesn't come to get it. Virgil urges Kit not to go. Despondent, Kit expresses that if she doesn't go, she will always question her choice. When she arrives, Kit finds that, in fact, the unicorn is there. She talks to the unicorn, thanking him for the times that he was there for her when nobody else was, and finally gains closure. She decides not to take the unicorn with her, and leaves it for the next customer to have. Virgil comes in and sees the unicorn as well. The two leave hand-in-hand, astonished at all they had just experienced.
Larson had previously auditioned to be in the film but failed to get the part, but five years later was invited to come on board as director.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2017. On January 9, 2019, it was revealed that Netflix picked up the distribution rights. It was released on April 5, 2019.
On Rotten Tomatoes, 64% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 74 reviews, and the film received an average rating of 5.98/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "It'll be best enjoyed by audiences with a high tolerance for colorful whimsy, but Unicorn Store is easy to like — and it suggests Brie Larson has a future behind the camera." Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 44 out of 100 based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent gave it a positive review, praising its "earnest emotion" and "joyous celebration of femininity." Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly rated it "B", and called it "A candy-coated, willfully quirky wisp of a film; like a Michel Gondry fantasy dipped in glitter and rainbow sprinkles." Tim Grierson of Screen International wrote "Both skewering and celebrating its adult protagonist's childlike wonder, Unicorn Store runs the risk of excessive whimsy at every turn. But Larson navigates through a cute story's clear limitations to deliver a film that's often quite funny."
Peter Debruge from Variety was critical of the film, saying it fails to create the right tonal balance, and labeled it "a creative misfire". IGN's Kristy Puchko gave the film 4.3 out of 10, and stated "Despite all the magic, unicorns, and glitter, there's not much fun or whimsy to Unicorn Store. Its wonder is punctured by Kit's perpetually prickly attitude. Its humor is dulled by Larson's incoherent comedy stylings [...] In the end, the best thing I can say about Unicorn Store is its only 92-minutes long."
- DeBruge, Peter (September 11, 2017). "Toronto Film Review: 'Unicorn Store'". Variety.
- Ford, Rebecca (November 14, 2016). "Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford Join Brie Larson's 'Unicorn Store'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Larson, Brie (December 9, 2016). "Last day of filming got me like". Instagram. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
- Pond, Steve (15 August 2017). "Aaron Sorkin, Brie Larson, Louis CK Movies Added to Toronto Film Festival Lineup". TheWrap. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- "Unicorn Store". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- Mavity, Will (January 10, 2019). "Breaking (I think?): Brie Larson's directorial debut, Unicorn Store has been acquired by Netflix for a streaming release later this year". Twitter.
- Fleming Jr, Mike (January 31, 2019). "Brie Larson & Lynette Howell Taylor Set Two Films At Netflix; Larson To Next Star In 'Lady Business'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "Unicorn Store (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
- "Unicorn Store Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
- Loughrey, Clarisse (5 April 2019). "Unicorn Store review: Brie Larson's directorial debut is a joyous celebration of femininity". The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
- "Unicorn Store". Entertainment Weekly. April 4, 2019.
- Grierson, Tim (September 13, 2017). "'Unicorn Store': Toronto Review". Retrieved April 13, 2019.
- Puchko, Kristy (April 5, 2019). "NETFLIX'S UNICORN STORE REVIEW". IGN. Retrieved April 13, 2019.