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The Unicorn (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

The Unicorn


Starring Nick Rutherford, Lauren Lapkus, Lucy Hale, Beck Bennett, Dree Hemingway, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Maya Kazan, John Kapelos, Beverly D’Angelo, Kyle Mooney, Heather Alexander, Jeff Barry, Ryan Davis, Brittany Furlan, Jeff Grace, Jase Grimm, Lauren Knutti, Alison Meagher-Manson, Elizabeth Ruscio, Owen Squire Smith and Robert Schwartzman.

Screenplay by Nick Rutherford, Kirk C. Johnson and Will Elliott.

Directed by Robert Schwartzman.

Distributed by The Orchard. 89 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Romantic comedies usually look at the beginning of a relationship, when the bloom is new on the rose and everything still seems magical. Therefore, it’s a nice change-up the The Unicorn takes a look at the later stages of a romance, when everything has become much more settled and much less exciting.

Cal and Mal (Nick Rutherford and Lauren Lapkus) have been together for seven years when we meet them. They’ve been engaged for four, but never gotten around to actually getting married. They’ve hit the point where they’d rather stay in than go out and have pretty much given up on the idea of life being an adventure. However, they still love each other and enjoy each other’s company. They’ve just gotten into a bit of a rut.

That rut is exposed when they go down to Palm Springs, to attend her mother and step-father’s (Beverly D’Angelo and John Kapelos) renewal of vows. Not comfortable with the big party the night before the ceremony – and particularly thrown off by finding out that her parents are keeping things fresh by having a pre-vows threesome – Cal and Mal decide to go home early. However, feeling guilty that they are in a different town and just sitting in and watching TV in a hotel on a Friday night, they decide to go out for a few drinks.

Little do they know, that simple decision will call into question all the safe assumptions that they have had about their relationship. It will send them on a crash course into strange and new sexual and intimacy boundaries which will tug at the safe fabric of their relationship.

At the bar, they meet a wild and free younger woman (Lucy Hale), who reopens up their more adventurous side. Her apparent social and sexual freedom has them feeling like they should try some new things, and the line keeps getting moved. It takes them into a shady world of alcohol, drugs, threesomes, strip clubs, escorts, and even kidnapping.

The Unicorn is a surprisingly engaging comedy, nicely directed by Robert Schwartzman – who is the son of Talia Shire, brother of Jason Schwartzman and is the lead singer/songwriter of popular aughties rock group Rooney (their biggest hit was “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?”).

The two leads are funny and likable, even when what they are doing is rather cringeworthy. Rutherford and Lapkus carry the film ably, though neither of them is overly well-known. He was a member of the sketch comedy group Good Neighbor and a former writer for Saturday Night Live. She currently has a recurring role on the final season of The Big Bang Theory as Stuart’s girlfriend and she also had a supporting role in Jurassic World. While both are a little quirky and a little off-the-wall, they are definitely worthy of the deserved lead role. Rutherford also co-wrote the script.

The search for their “unicorn” (a willing third party for a threesome) takes up a great deal of the film’s running time, but there is also a good deal of family dysfunction going on, as well as an off-beat breakout from an old-age home. And while none of this is the most original stuff you’ve ever seen, and not quite as risqué as the plotline suggests (even the potential threesome scenes feel a little watered down), it’s time well spent.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: February 1, 2019.

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