TIFF Review: Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store

Joanna Posted by Joanna at September 12, 2017 20:45:15 September 12, 2017 20:45:15

I’ve written today about how I have zero chill, especially during TIFF. I’m genuinely not trying to humblebrag here, but I am so moved by TIFF and the festival and the buzz that I try to follow it as best I can. These movies (can) help define the cultural zeitgeist, and if you find a good one, it can change your whole day and then some. So I stack my day with as many screenings as I can fit in. This morning, I chose to see Unicorn Store at 8:30am in the morning, after finishing work last night turning around notes on The Disaster Artist Midnight Madness red carpet at around 1:30am. But since my junket interviews for The Florida Project were at the same time as the screening of Unicorn Store and I had a ticket (and the red carpet I was originally supposed to produce), nothing was keeping me away from seeing that movie as soon as I could. It’s not just because I love and admire Brie Larson (and loved speaking to her last year about Free Fire, a year after she was at TIFF for the People’s Choice prize winning Room, which also won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture, and and and), but also because of how TIFF execs talked about the movie. Both Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey, the power team behind TIFF, told me before or after various etalk interviews not to sleep on this movie, or not to assume it’s a vanity project. They kept going on about how imaginative and inventive and different it is, plus it “owns itself.” It’s unapologetic about being so sparkly or, as many would assume…. childish. But that’s the point, and that’s the kind of authentic voice TIFF is trying to nurture with their #ShareHerJourney campaign. And the film’s co-lead, Mamoudou Athie is a TIFF Rising Star this year. This organization is supporting her. They’re showing their work and investing in Brie stock.

So, I had a fire lit under me (a Free Fire? too far?) to do what I needed to do to get there for 8:30…ish.

I don’t think Brie Larson gets enough respect for everything she’s done in her career. She. Is. 27. She, like my other ALL-CAPS favourite Jessica Chastain, appears to be quite candid about her professional choices, her beliefs and her personal life on social media. They both make commercial and passionate choices, and take their careers into their own hands. Jessica has her production company, and Brie is very active in the film community (and on film Twitter). Oh, and she’s Captain Marvel, in blockbusters like Kong: Skull Island (which I still haven’t seen, oops) but still takes the time to direct something, and it’s the first project she’s ever produced. Plus there’s the teen popstar career, and throwback pics to her child star days which come with a real sense of humour and self-awareness.

I like her. I do. But beyond my fangirling, this movie is actually really interesting. It has a voice. It shows Brie’s work as a child star. Brie was in both 13 Going on 30 (AS A SIX CHICK – COME ON) and United States of Tara. This honestly feels like a cross between the two. It’s completely fearless, and SO confident. She didn’t write the script, but she certainly knew how to bring it to life. Unicorn Store is weird and funny, about a woman named Kit who is afraid of growing up. She is working temp jobs and living with her parents and trying to impress everybody. She, like many of us, believes that work is “performance.” But secretly ….she just wants a Unicorn, something she knows is ridiculous but she just can't help herself. Her imagination compels her to dream and make her own choices, though it also results in her compromising her personal relationships. This character has ZERO CHILL, just like me. She wants to be a grown up but doesn't want to grow up and has major imposter syndrome.

Unicorn Store reminded me of United States of Tara. It reminded me of the dance at the end of Little Miss Sunshine. Just no f-cks given. And much like 13 Going on 30 (which, full disclosure, I had a 13 Going on 30 themed birthday party earlier this summer), the climax involves a huge pitch meeting with, yes, tons of glitter bombs. It’s a little on the nose in that the meeting is full of (mostly) white men and one woman of colour, but she’s trying to show how hard it can be to prove yourself to a room that is already not on your side. It’s a movie about trying and going for it. It’s hopeful, optimistic and positive.

Spoiler alert: At one point, her mom (Joan Cusack) tells her the only real way to be a “grown up” is to fail doing something that you love. I cried and cried and cried. It may have been the exhaustion, but it was so incredibly funny and familiar, with the faces (and possible favours?) of Samuel L. Jackson as her surrogate therapist-slash-unicorn-dealer-slash-maybe-con-artist, Superbad star Martha MacIsaac, Hamish Linklater, Ryan Hansen, JOAN CUSACK, Bradley Whitford et al.

So, if it’s not obvious already, I loved it. After I left the screening, I just decided to tweet about the movie, not thinking anything would ever happen or anybody beyond my “followers.” Seriously not humblebragging here, but I posted this:

 

I thought the tweet didn’t go through because about a second after I hit send, my phone went black. I just got a new phone about a month ago, and thought it might be a glitch. I ignored it. Then I looked down and realized what happened. Brie had retweeted me WITHIN SECONDS and was the first person to like and retweet what I wrote. Then I had to go back to work and try to go on to the next thing, but I was shaking. Me, the queen of zero chill, got instantly acknowledged by somebody who just made a movie about how it’s ok to have zero chill. I couldn’t keep the sobs in, but I just tried to work through it. And now here we are.

I guess this is living your best life?

Photos:
Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Michael Tran/ Walter McBride/ Getty Images

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