It's approximately 11:20 PM, and I'm currently in my bed feeling way too elated before bedtime. The reason why I feel this way is because I had just finished watching Brie Larson's film Unicorn Store. The Oscar winning actress made her directorial debut with this film. Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Joan Cusack, this film, distributed by Netflix, was delightful from beginning to end. The film starts out with a montage of what seem to be home videos of the main character, Gladys. From her days as an infant to growth as an adolescent, each video has a sprinkle of wonderment and free spirit represented in it. From the brief video montage, the viewer can immediately tell that Gladys was a creative since birth, as proven with her imaginary friends, paint covered smiles and pillow forts.
In the next scene, we see Gladys quickly transform from a young girl to a grown woman. On the outside, nothing has changed. She still wears her overalls, is covered head to toe in various shades of paint and glitter and is still maintaining that sense of child-like wonder behind her eyes. Gladys hasn't changed, but the environment around her has. As the camera zooms out, the audience sees that she is surrounded by bleak shades of gray, white and black. As the artist students around her show of their professional work, Gladys is disheartened to find that she has earned yet another "poor" grade for her extremely expressive and colorful painting of a unicorn.
The entire plot of Unicorn Store focused on Gladys navigating her way through the shady and hypocritical corners of the workforce in a Public Relations firm, all while she secretly works towards her ultimate goal of attaining the one thing she's always wanted in life: a real unicorn. Towards the end of the film, Gladys realizes that her life will not be fulfilling if she continues to force herself to live in an un-authentic lifestyle of dreary cubicles, co-workers that do sexist and hypocritical practices and perverted bosses.
Rather, it takes Gladys coming to terms with herself to realize that she can grow up and evolve as an adult without compromising her authentic self. The film ends with a romance between Gladys and Virgil, played by Mamoudou Athie. Throughout the film, Virgil was one of the only characters that never pressured Gladys to change her creative personality (as if that would make every disappointing thing in her life disappear.) Virgil stuck by her side even during the crazy scenes when he believed she was being conned into thinking she would get a real unicorn. I will admit that I was disappointed that the writer felt it was necessary to create a love interest for Gladys as the final message would have been just as powerful, if not more, without the need of a romantic partner being part of the solution. However, I digress.
While watching Unicorn Store, I recognized parts of myself in Gladys. Being in college and living on my own has certainly tested me in more ways than one. I went from being a hopeful freshman who thought she had the world in her palms to being a stressed and perpetually tired junior who just wants this whole "college thing" to be over already. I'm sure most college students can relate to my previous message, but after watching Gladys speed through her own process of growth and maturity, it made me realize that I should want more for myself too!
I used to constantly think of all the possible ways I could apply my talents and make something of myself in this world. No offense to "cubicle-corporate" style jobs, but I've always known that I wanted to avoid a mediocre life filled with bleak complacency and lacking risk. Yet, being in such a stressful climate has me constantly think about survival and stability. Everyday I ask myself: what am I studying all of this for? Is my goal to just live day to day doing the same mundane thing just because I know it will pay something? Or do I want to participate in jobs that excite me and teach others they shouldn't be afraid of attempting to achieve at least one of their dreams?
I find myself being tugged by both of these mindsets. Similar to Gladys and probably most students, I too have parents that want the best for me, even if that means sacrificing joy in my job to have a financially comforting life. But I also have a support system like Gladys' friend Virgil. I've surrounded myself with artistic and fearless people who choose to pursue the things they love, despite not being perfectly put together in life. Every day, they unknowingly teach me lessons in self-reflection and to be myself in order to truly grasp what will satisfy me in life. Overall, Larson's Unicorn Store was a lighthearted film with a change in pace that takes on darker motifs and digs deeper into the mess that is society, which is a theme that has been shown more greatly in recent films. It is a lovely coming-of-age film that I believe could brighten up any college student's day, especially if they have been doubting themselves lately.