It’s hard to describe the whimsical feeling the film “Unicorn Store” instills on its viewers. It breathes life into the very core of childhood and individuality with everything from its “Pushing Daisies”-esque music to the very actors that star in it: Such as Joan Cusack (Mrs. Incredible from “The Incredibles”), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury from “The Avengers”), Brie Larson (Beatrice from “Hoot”) and Bradley Whitford (Carmen’s father in “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants”), to name a few. In a word, it is magical.
The movie surrounds Kit (Larson), a girl in her early 20s whose dream of being an artist has just been crushed by her uninventive teacher (Matt Luem) for being too “out there.” After failing out of school, she returns home to her two parents (Cusack and Whitford) who run a camp called “Emotion Quest” to help troubled youths. They invite over Kevin (Karan Soni), an old neighbor of Kit’s who now works for her parents, and continually praise him for keeping busy and getting out there, whereas Kit has just been lying in front of the TV all day. Aggravated at her parents, she seeks out a temporary job and begins trying to act normal, leaving her fanciful outfits and glitter behind.
The actors at her temp job try to act dull and stilted, likely to press the importance of individuality — which seems to be the message of the film — even harder on viewers. The over-the-top acting and nondescript quality of her co-worker (Annaleigh Ashford) and her strange boss (Hamish Linklater) make the office job almost seem unreal. Every conversation she has with them seems to be a mix of “Alice in Wonderland” riddles and “The Office” humor. And yet, unlike other movies, Kit calls their oddness to question at different points in the film.
When Kit first discovers “The Store,” there’s a moment in the movie where it feels as if she is either going to die, she’s a crazy person or maybe, just maybe, unicorns are real. As always, Jackson seems to only be capable of playing either incredibly serious or equally incredibly silly characters. In this case, his role as “The Salesman” is the latter. His afro is full of glitter, his suit is hot pink and he won’t stop saying that unicorns are real and very much for sale. And while viewers innately try to push against the prospect of unicorns existing, throughout the film it is hard not to join Kit in hope.
Excited to take on her very own unicorn, Kit immediately gets to work on a stable in her backyard. At this point, she meets Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), a worker at a hardware store and by far the best character in the entire film. He is wonderful, from his great lines like “I would say you paid too much for a horse” to the way he smiles at Kit. While Kit clings to the promise of unconditional love and friendship from her future unicorn, Virgil provides both those things without her even realizing it. His sense of humor and adorable willingness to go along with whatever odd thing Kit says or does is a beacon of hope to singletons everywhere who are brave enough to be themselves.
In addition to her blossoming relationship with Virgil, Kit also works to reconcile with her parents at different points in the film. Anyone who went through puberty can attest that it’s easy to slip into the routine of constantly pulling away from and fighting with parental figures. For this reason, it’s hard not to relate to Kit as she struggles with her relationship with her parents, thus making her final moment of mother-daughter bonding even more impactful to viewers.
“Unicorn Store” acted like “Juno,” in that it grazed the surface of reality by staying in its own realm of magic and constant humorous banter. But in a way it did it better by touching an aspect of humanity that everyone usually keeps hidden deep under our grownup personas: Our childlike wonder.
I never thought watching a grown up woman hug a unicorn could make me cry, but it did.
Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.