If you couldn’t get enough of seeing Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson be the unlikeliest and greatest buddy action movie duo in Captain Marvel, Netflix has you covered. Brie Larson’s first directorial effort, Unicorn Store, which again pairs Larson with Jackson, will begin streaming on April 5.
Let this just be a reminder to you: Brie Larson, who won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in 2015’s Room, is now also a film director, and her first movie, Unicorn Store, shot and released to festivals in 2017, will finally be released via Netflix on April 5. Yes, it is kind of ridiculous that Larson’s movie took a wee bit long to become available.
But the good news that it won’t be unavailable for very much longer. Blink, and it’ll be here to stream on every phone, desktop, and video game console (except Nintendo Switch) before you know it.
In Unicorn Store, Larson stars as Kit, a twenty-something art student obsessed with unicorns. When Kit flunks out of grad school, she moves back in with her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford) and meets “The Salesman” (Samuel L. Jackson), an eccentric Willy Wonka-esque figure who promises to give her all she’s ever wanted, if she can prove herself.
The film has been “out” for a long time now — reviews dating back to its September 2017 debut at the Toronto International Film Festival average out to 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — but it was stuck in distribution limbo until January 2019, when Netflix picked it up as part of a two-picture deal with producer Lynette Howell Taylor and her company, 51 Entertainment.
The second picture out of the deal will be Lady Business, based on a 2017 Fast Company article about two women entrepreneurs who created a fake male colleague named “Keith” in order to be taken seriously. Larson is expected to again star and direct.
There is no trailer for the film, so you can’t really preview it if you want. But Larson did give a handful of interviews promoting the film at TIFF.
In a video interview with Variety, Larson said: “I knew there was something about this script and this story that was really important to me. It was just purely an allegory to me that I could just project my own things onto, but I decided to pull old home movies and include them in the film and in that, I found all this footage of me wanting a unicorn. So I guess it’s as been as deep inside of me for a long time and I just forgot.”
Reviews for Unicorn Store are mixed among critics. IndieWire, The Guardian, and Variety all use the word “twee” to describe the film, all varying in context. Variety calls it a “creative misfire” and “so cotton-candy sweet that audiences need insulin shots on the way out of the cinema. Instead, the storytelling here has all the personality of a strip-mall income-tax office.”
IndieWire, meanwhile, is a little more kind, and praises Larson as a filmmaker who just needs more time to smooth out the rough edges as an artist. “Larson does an impressive job of pulling triple duty, even when the script gets in her way,” writes IndieWire critic David Ehrlich, “and it’s easy to see that she has as much potential behind the camera as she does in front of it.”
“There’s also a palpable sincerity to her filmmaking, and every frame of this open-hearted debut suggests that Larson truly wants to be an advocate for the the different and the dispossessed, that she truly wants Unicorn Store to reaffirm the value of those voices that mainstream storytelling has always silenced. It doesn’t — but she does.”
But The Guardian is not as forgiving. “As a film-maker, Larson shows promise, and as a comic actor she shows genuine talent,” comments critic Benjamin Lee. “With a less affected, more genuine script, Larson could star in and direct a great comedy. Unicorn Store is not it.”
Will Unicorn Store be worth streaming? You’ll have to find out for yourself, and thankfully, you won’t be waiting for long.
Unicorn Store will be released on Netflix on April 5.