For all of the attempts at trying to reach an audience in 'Unicorn Store', where it will probably do the most good is with people who are attracted to whimsy and imagination.
A key scene sees Brie Larson's dejected artist, who's taken on a temp job and thrown herself into full-speed, is making a pitch for a vacuum cleaner. Her enthusiasm sees her wearing a tinsel tassel suit in bright green, firing off confetti and streamers in the middle of her presentation, all to a choreographed dance move. The boring business people at the desk opt for the obvious, male-gaze orientated, aspirational pitch they heard before.
Because, you see, corporations don't appreciate art and imagination - or, at least, this one doesn't.
Now, if that seems like a heinously overwrought analogy for the ineffective mixture of art and business, you better strap yourself in if you plan on making it through 'Unicorn Store'. From the very get-go, we see Brie Larson's artist forced to contend with society's inability to see her vision for what it is. The opening scene is literally an art critic giving her an 'F' rating and shaking his head slowly at her, to which she stares back and eventually returns home to her parents, Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack.
Samantha McIntyre's script hits all the expected beats for a down-and-out artist who struggles to contend with the world at large and realise their goals and their creativity. She takes a boring desk job. She funnels her creative spirit into that. When it fails, she decides it was never for her in the first place. Running through all of this, however, is Larson's character having these meetings with a salesman from a shop personally designed for her that will, once she meets certain criteria, deliver her a unicorn - her childhood fantasy and the thing that she most wanted in the world.
Now, again, if you're going for a painfully obvious metaphor, a literal unicorn is the one to go with. Larson's character is chasing after something that can't be explained rationally, doesn't actually exist in the world (until it does), and seems ridiculous to everyone she explains it to. All except Samuel L. Jackson's salesman, of course.
Larson's performance is vital and alive, and Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having a ball playing a completely made-up character that he normally wouldn't be asked to do. Whitford and Cusack as the long-suffering parents bring a natural heart to the story and anchor it in a familiar dynamic, while the out-there scenes with Larson on her own make it fly into the never never.
As a director, it's clear that Larson has a firm grasp on the use of colour, editing and really nailing the vibrancy of what to expect. 'Unicorn Store' has a real Michel Gondry vibe to it, but without some of his technical flourishes to it. Really, with 'Unicorn Store', what lets it down so powerfully is the trite and ineffective script by Samantha McIntyre.
It's saying absolutely nothing that hasn't been said before, said in a more effective way, and not only that, offers up a pithy platitude to anyone who's struggling to create something in the increasingly overstuffed world of endless, available content. All it's saying is that your dreams matter, and maybe they do, but a movie this bland and ineffective isn't going to help or serve as a rallying cry for anyone watching it.