The Brie Larson Project: Something in Store For You

Posted: March 31, 2020 in Brie Larson Project, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

It’s been awhile, but I figured since we’re all stuck in, this is a good time for me to get back to writing (and you to reading).

After taking a bit of a Brie Break, I decided to finally hunker down (since we’re basicallyIMG_20200330_124857 being forced to hunker) and watch Brie Larson’s directorial debut, the Netflix original Unicorn Store. Obviously, Larson is not the first actor to test her skills behind the camera, and she even made this list of 12 female “bad-ass” actor/directors. I don;t know if she has reached the “bad-ass” plateau just yet, or if she belongs on the same list as Greta Gerwig when it comes to directing, but if Drew Barrymore can make the top 12, then I guess we’ll go with it.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with her directing. In fact, Unicorn Store is a very fine first effort, and according to The Rotten Tomatoes Critic Consensus (and Matt Dursin agrees), the film is, “easy to like — and it suggests Brie Larson has a future behind the camera.” So, here’s the rundown of what this little film is about:

Kit (played by Larson) is described (by IMDB) as a twenty-something dreamer, a recent art school drop-out, in fact, who is now living at home with her weird, earthy-crunchy parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford. Seriously, whenever Hollywood needs a weird Dad, they call Bradley Whitford). After getting some bad reviews from her art professors for her whimsical, or just plain childish art, she decides all of that art crap isn’t for her and she gets a job. She in fact gets a temp job at an ad agency, and her role is to photocopy magazine ads. Despite the fact that it’s her first job, and her boss is a creep, she starts figuring it out pretty quick, and one day receives an invitation while at work to a store that, according to said invitation, is right up her alley. Kit discovers that no one else in the office received this invitation, so she finds it a little bizarre, but decides to check it out. She follows the directions to a nondescript building, and inside finds the answer to all of life’s problems: Samuel L. Jackson.

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I’m kidding. Well, sort of. She does find Samuel L. Jackson (whom Larson became great friends with while working on Captain Marvel, over the fact that he brought his light-saber to set one day), but the cure for all life’s ills is the fact that this is, in actuality, a Unicorn Store! Yes, if you can prove yourself worthy, and prove that you will love and take good care of this unicorn, you can take one home.

Kit is obviously ecstatic about this, and decides to prove she is worthy by building a proper stable in her parents’ backyard to house her unicorn. She hires a local hardware store employee, and promptly bonds with him for this task. She then sets about doing other weird things to prove herself worthy, including giving a presentation with a few co-workers that tries to make a vacuum cleaner seem interesting, and forge an understanding with her bizarre parents. It’s a little bit like Groundhog’s Day, I suppose, without the in-your-face comedy.

I won’t spoil the ending, but that’s basically what it is; a little Groundhog’s Day, with some Benny & Joon thrown in, with a side of every other movie about growing up ever made. So you might think that I wouldn’t like it because it borrows from so many other movies, but that isn’t true. It was actually a fun, harmless, whimsical movie that was sorely needed in this time of quarantine. It’s not a great movie, but it is, as the review says, “easy to like.”

My biggest problem with it at the beginning was that I thought it was a little too much like Benny & Joon, the 1993 rom-com starring pre-creeper Johnny Depp that is really only notable for giving the world “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. Similar to Unicorn Store, Benny & Joon is “easy to like,” and most people who came of age in the early 90’s, like I did, probably remember the song fondly, but it’s not really a movie that leaves much of an impression or says a whole lot, except, I guess, love conquers all, which is what most early 90’s movies said, including Terminator 2.

I thought the two movies were similar for another reason, though, because I thought early on in Unicorn Store that Kit was, like Joon, mentally challenged. They never really say what her ailment is, but she exhibits a variety of symptoms which could point to dissociative identity disorder, OCD, Asperger’s and post-traumatic stress disorder. Really, it’s not crucial, but is why Joon is such a sympathetic character, because it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Kit, as it turns out, is really just an emotionally-stunted artist. I guess we’re supposed to believe that she’s just been living this freebird life, or that her parents messed her up with their hippie-ness, but when she has a nice heart-to-heart with her mother, it is revealed that they’re not really all that strange, but more that Kit just was too young and, let’s face it, daffy to understand. Her mother, Gladys, actually has the most quotable line in the movie when she tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” Which is all she needed to hear, really. In fact, now that I think about it, if they had written Kit as a mentally-challenged person, like Joon, then it would have pretty much been the same movie, but you would have looked at her differently as a viewer. She does have her big moment of realization at the end, but in the end, all she really overcame was her own whackiness.IMG_20200330_124902

Still, if that’s my only complaint about a movie, then that’s pretty good, coming from me.  As someone who is hyper-critical of movies (in case you haven’t noticed), this one was actually refreshing in its simplicity. I’m glad that I can still enjoy a little movie with fun, little ideas, directed by someone who no doubt has big goals. And if Brie Larson decides to direct again, I think that will bump her up to that “bad-ass” category.

 

 

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