There are tons of comedies out there that center around sex. Many lack subtlety and exist as softcore porn for pent-up teenagers. The Unicorn could have easily been one of those, but instead, it’s a film that has sensuality and sexuality while having virtually no nudity. It also has tons of laughs. Robert Schwartzman and writers Will Elliott, Kirk C. Johnson, and Nicholas Rutherford (who co-stars in the film) take the traditional boy-meets-girl rom-com formula and twists it where the couple meets girl and/or boy.
The Unicorn is a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out
Caleb (Rutherford) has just proposed to Malory (Lauren Lapkus)…again. They’ve been engaged for four years, but so far, neither has committed to a wedding date. Malory’s parents are having their annual wedding vow renewal in Palm Springs when pressure comes from her parents, her pregnant sister, and older people who are having more fun than these two. A possible revelation that the secret to her parents’ happy marriage has been threeways plants the seed in their heads, and the hunt for their unicorn begins.
Lapkus and Rutherford have great chemistry together, so their comedy feels quite organic. There is an early scene when they are getting ready for bed, and Rutherford is brushing his teeth. Lapkus realizes that he is using her toothbrush. The banter that follows is as natural as any couple, but probably ten times funnier than most people could muster. It feels very much like we are eavesdropping on an actual couple’s evening rituals, which appears to be what Schwartzman wants.
It seems that for many moments in the film Schwartzman wants the audience to be voyeurs. He frames his shots through an intricate brick pattern that separates the living area and the bed in the couples hotel room. The first time we see this shot is during the scene mentioned above, but he re-uses it at a variety of moments to either emphasize one of the character’s feelings of isolation or separation, or to accentuate the naughtiness of what the two boring thirty-somethings are doing. It’s little touches like this that make this film stand out amongst the other rom-coms that populate the multiplexes.
The Unicorn lives up to its name, being that elusive romantic comedy that lives up to the myth. There is a sweetness to the characters, and you believe their love for each other. It manages to tip-toe around many of the tropes associated with the genre without completely falling into them or completely ignoring them. The moments you’d expect to see show up, but they feel unique to the film and work to flesh out the story that is being depicted rather than to cement the film in its classification.
I was admittedly apprehensive going into a film that features a couple looking for a threesome. There is always a concern that it would be distasteful, but I trusted the leads to not put themselves in a film like that, and I was rewarded for that trust. The film is excellent, and will hopefully find distribution to be seen by larger audiences. The Unicorn earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.