Landon Roberts, Contributing Writer
The opening moments of Brie Larson’s directorial debut “Unicorn Store” are the catalyst of this modern quirky fairytale.
It begins with a montage of home videos showing the growth of our main character Kit as she discovers her creativity. With every passing year of this extremely personal montage comes a growing smile plastered across her face as she expresses her inner feelings through colorful portraits. This leads directly into the present day where this smile slowly fades after she is kicked out of art school.
This blend of contrasting emotions continues throughout the rest of the film.
Following this masterfully crafted opening, Brie Larson’s Kit returns home and is thrown into the trivial workforce that stomps out creativity. Her creative spark is restored when she’s offered a unicorn — that is, if she can complete a myriad of tasks ranging from building a stable to rekindling her relationship with her family.
This is where the “Unicorn Store” truly shines in all of its peculiar glory.
The relationship between Kit and her family will hit home for many because of one question presented in the film: “Am I a disappointment?” This question is uttered by Kit pretty early on, and its lasting presence is felt through all of her actions.
While she tries to achieve this absurd goal of obtaining a unicorn, she also tries to avoid being seen as a failure in her family’s eyes. This constant struggle is presented charmingly through Larson’s amazing performance.
The childlike glee that consumes her personality is portrayed by a bubbly inflection that Larson carries throughout the entirety of the run time. However, Larson switches this carefree demeanor so easily when faced with heavy subject matter.
The sense of a loss of meaning in her life is executed through small changes in her performance, including a defeated posture and anxiety-driven ticks. No matter what, her shield of positivity remains and rubs off on every character she interacts with.
The best example of this is with the character Virgil, played by Mamoudou Athie. Virgil helps Kit construct a stable, and their interactions start off as palpably awkward. However, with every moment they spend together, her creative outlook rubs off on him, creating a real and earnest relationship.
While their interactions are rooted in reality, the dialogue and script are filled with whimsical wonderment. This dialogue heightens the conversations, giving a storybook-like essence to the film. The result is many laugh-out-loud moments.
While the dialogue succeeds in many scenes, the outrageous nature of the script can deflate moments that should be emotionally driven. This is especially relevant near the end of the second act when Kit has a serious conversation with her family.
The entirety of this heartfelt scene is undercut by a running joke involving a character named Kevin. As soon as you think the conversation is about to reach its emotional peak, this joke is executed and it deflates the entirety of the scene, affecting the payoff of the familial theme.
While the fairytale-like dialogue and setups can become absurd, Larson’s work behind the camera achieves the film’s whimsical nature. Every scene involving Kit’s infatuation with this unicorn is consumed by vibrant neon colors that pulsate through a rainbow-like spectrum. This is contradicted by the beige and gray office buildings that drain Kit’s creativity and childlike glee.
The use of lighting and colors paired with the score creates an ambiance that can only be described as magical. The eccentric and fluttery backtracks mirror her amazement, and when the score crescendos, the wonderment reaches its peak and creates joyful moments.
Moments like this would have been a lot more effective if Larson experimented more with her camera movement. A majority of the film is filled with basic steady camera shots that rely heavily on a shot-reverse-shot composition. A tracking shot or long take would have made certain scenes of wonderment extremely effective, but those opportunities were sadly missed.
Even though the dialogue and the use of the camera is messy at times, Larson achieves a colorful and magical character study in “Unicorn Store.”