Brie Larson's directorial debut is sweet but flimsy

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The pains of growing up — having to hold a job, relating to other adults, not being able to own a unicorn — are pored over in Brie Larson’s millennial fantasy “Unicorn Store,” a middling comedy that never establishes a believable through line of reality.  

Larson stars in and directs this overly whimsical tale which follows Kit (Larson), a coddled art-type and free spirit who has difficulty finding her place in the world after she washes out of art school.   

She’s wasting away on her parents’ couch (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford are mom and dad) when she decides to take a job at a temp agency, where her lecherous boss (Hamish Linklater) pegs her for big things while getting off on the smell of her hair. “Am I pretty enough to be sexually harassed?” she asks, her naivete doubling as cluelessness.

Meantime, Kit receives a mysterious invitation to “The Store,” where the Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) informs her she’s been picked as a prime candidate for unicorn ownership. She enlists the help of a hardware store employee (Mamoudou Athie) to help her build a stable in her backyard for the magical creature, which she’s dreamed of owning her whole life.

But unicorns aren’t real, you say! And “The Unicorn Store” dances around this central conflict for most of its running time, as the unicorn acts as a stand-in for Kit’s reluctance to accept the responsibilities of what kids today call “adulting.” 

It’s a testament to Larson the actress that she’s able to hold together a story whose flimsy elements threaten to derail it from its early moments. But Larson the director can’t hold it together, and like a magic trick that never comes together, “Unicorn Store” vanishes in a puff of smoke.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Unicorn Store'

GRADE: C

Not rated: language

Running time: 92 minutes

On Netflix

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