I Believe in Unicorns Review: The Not-So-Spectacular Now

Photo Credit:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/29/movies/review-in-i-believe-in-unicorns-a-princess-meets-her-punk-prince-charming.html?_r=0

The great Roger Ebert once said, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” The same can be applied to relationships. The good ones don’t end on either of your terms and the bad ones leave you wondering how it didn’t come crashing down sooner. Unfortunately, a bad movie about a bad relationship doesn’t somehow cancel itself out.

The first time I checked the time during I Believe in Unicorns was about 30 minutes in. At a minuscule 80 minutes, this film still somehow manages to be too long.

We follow teenage Davina (Natalie Dyer) as she falls for Sterling (Peter Vack), a jovial boy with some serious family issues. Some of the dialogue between them manages to feel authentic, but these characters lack any and all dimension beyond tough family lives. Because Vack’s performance lacks genuine humanity, his tragic backstory was lost on me. So when the film reaches its bigger narrative beats, we’re left with a walking cliche of charming smiles and dooming angst.

Dyer, meanwhile, falls into the virginal quiet girl archetype as Davina. It’s simply boring, and no ounce of supposed realism is capable of keeping it from being boring.

Worst of all are the not-so-subtle stop-motion fantasy sequences that half-heartedly try to imbed some style into an otherwise plain film. Instead, they feel awkward and out of place, as if director Leah Meyerhoff is trying to compensate for the film’s other shortcomings with an abundance of style. It’s a cheap gimmick that’ll likely fool newer viewers of the indie scene as something artsy.

But, like the CGI in big summer tentpoles, artsy gimmicks will do nothing if the film lacks a human element. Thinking back to 2013’s The Spectacular Now, the best and most realistic, as well as least manipulative, teen romance film of the decade so far, I Believe in Unicorns tries to tell a similar story. But the former did something remarkable in that it didn’t judge its characters. In I Believe in Unicorns, there are no grey areas, which is just irresponsible storytelling. Grade: C-

By Matt Dougherty

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