Thursday, 28 June 2018

Unicorn Store - EIFF review

Captain Marvel must complete a series of tasks set by Nick Fury in order to get a real life unicorn. It sounds like Deadpool's wet dream or, at the very least, one of his spin-off comics.
In reality, Unicorn Store is Brie Larson's directorial debut in which she plays Kit, a young woman who is kicked out of art school and moves back in to her parents house. While she tries to figure out her future, a mysterious Salesman offers her the chance to own a unicorn. If she can fulfil a number of chores and criteria. Will the challenge offer her a chance to gain some grown up responsibility or will it see Kit regress deeper into adolescence?
Brie Larson follows in the footsteps of indie actors transitioning into directing such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), Ryan Gosling (Lost River), Drew Barrymore (Whip It) and Zach Braff (Garden State).
Of those, this is most akin to Garden State in terms of story, character and success.
Larson delivers a charming performance as Kit, showcasing her comedic side that was evident in Scott Pilgrim (2010) but not really called for in her breakout films Short Term 12 or Room.
She also has a great understanding of comedy as a director as well. Whether it is Kit's fears compounded via commercials as she channel hops the TV (a well worn gag but executed perfectly) or a single shot of someone's smile fading which is held to the perfect length that makes it one of the funniest moments you will see all year.
Larson has also surrounding herself with an excellent cast. Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford provide great support as her parents who run an emotional retreat for troubled youths; Hamish Linklater has some great laughs as her borderline inappropriate boss and Samuel L. Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson as The Salesman. However it is Mamoudou Athie (Patti Cake$) who steals the show as the hardware store clerk Virgil who becomes Kit's potential real-life unicorn that could give her life meaning and purpose.
For all the whimsical nature in Samantha McIntyre's script that's choc full of more charm than a box of Lucky Charms, there is a moral message at its heart. Ultimately, the question of whether or not the mystical unicorn actually exists is irrelevant. The Salesman is teaching Kit how to get her own life in order along the way and that as long as you believe in something, whether that be family, a relationship, work or a unicorn, you will be okay.
Unicorn Store is the sweetest film of 2018 but not sickly sweet because beneath the quirky, glitzy exterior is a message at its nutty centre. So kind of like a Ferrero Rocher then. Brie Larson, with your debut you are really spoiling us!

4 stars

Unicorn Store has its International Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 29th June, 8.45 and Saturday 30th June, 8.35.

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