I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of Captain Marvel jokes made about this movie, hell I made one when I saw it pop up on Netflix before I even played it but I’m so glad I did. Unicorn Store stars, and is directed by Brie Larson who plays a woman, Kit, who flunked out of art school and is forced to get a “real job” and attempt to move on. As she’s barely getting acclimated to the real world she keeps running into intricate invitations made out to her to a place called “The Store” that promises to have just what she needs. Turns out The Store sells only one thing, a unicorn which is what Kit has been obsessed with since she was a child. Immediately she wants to know what she has to do to get the Unicorn and three simple requirements are given to her, make a suitable space for the unicorn to live, provide financial stability, and provide a loving peaceful environment. After that the movie takes off….weird right? Definitely weird.
Kit is kind of childish. Aside from the unicorn obsession she’s a bit selfish, seems a bit unequipped to handle anything that’s not her fantasy world and has never had a real job. She lives with her parents who are camp counselors at some sort of Vision Quest youth program where they council at risk youths with cheesy “Truth circles” and camping trips. They’re nice enough people but Kit is irritated at the fact that they want to give her dinner or feed her Kale. She gets a job at a temp agency that sends her to a PR Firm where she’s given the task of copying magazines she’s barely in the office for a few hours before she’s getting sexually harassed by one of the VPs. This seems like a weird wrinkle to an already strange movie but I’m sure it happens to entirely too many women so in a way I’m glad it was included. Kit’s main motivation at work when asked by her boss is not being a disappointment but really it’s getting the unicorn.
As her quest for the Unicorn unfolds she meets Virgil, a hardware store sweeper and inventory counter who she enlists to help her build the stable for her future unicorn and they begin to develop a friendship. At the same time Kit meets periodically with The Salesman, played by Samuel L Jackson, who runs The Store and checks in with Kit to see how her progress is going. These meetings are really nothing but therapy meetings where Kit talks about the problems she’s having at work or with her parents, and she is confronted by her selfishness.
Ultimately that is what this movie is all about, it’s about personal growth. Kit faces her “failure” or rather the failure that other people assigned to her by crashing and going to a boring office job where she is doing mindless work and getting sexually harassed. When she TRIES to inject some of herself into the job (Which is a fantastic pitch meeting that puts Don Draper to shame) she’s only shot down in favor of a cliche sexual campaign. She thinks her parents see her as a disappointment or failure because they worry about her and she doesn’t even notice that her parents proudly hang her art on their walls. She pushes away the one person not related to her who seems to genuinely care about her, helps her, and is trying to look out for her. Something that I’m sure most of the viewers have gone through at one point of their life or another.
All of this reaches a climax in a beautiful moment when Virgil, with the help of her parents finishes building the stable and lines it with art Kit has created from her childhood until now. As she walks in her eyes water as she recognizes the things she’s created out of her pure imagination and how they’re displayed in such a proud way. It’s an art gallery of her life. Of Her. All her vulnerability and creative output not ridiculed but proudly showcased. Virgil says, “If you were a building this is what you’d look like”. It’s a little on the nose that the stable of her unicorn is a gallery of her, but who cares this is a lovely moment, and if it has to be on the nose for all the viewers to realize then so be it.
As much as Kit is a unicorn, I believe Virgil is a unicorn too. Virgil is the one who defends her art even when Kit has deemed that the artist that called her art bad was right. He’s also the one that built the stable that displayed all her stuff with pride. He sees things in her she can’t even see most of the movie. There’s nothing as inexplicable and fantastical as a person, an independent, full person who has no biological ties to you caring about you. Someone who you can be your weird self around, talk about ridiculous things like unicorns and care bears, dress how you want to dress, complain about what you want to complain, and them still stick around? That’s a miracle. Throughout the movie everytime Virgil was on the screen I couldn’t help but think of how grateful I am to have found someone like that in my life. He’s the second unicorn in this movie, sure self growth and valuing yourself is important but that then allows you to be open for love from others and those people are as rare and mystical as a real unicorn.
It’s a cheesy movie but it works, I really think it does. It’s original and carries a powerful message that I think everyone needs a reminder of. As far as directorial debuts go I think Brie Larson did a fantastic job and I hope there are more Unicorn Stores in the world.