Movie coasts on Gillian Jacobs’ appeal
In some ways, “I Used to Go Here” is a more introspective and far less bawdy version of “Old School.”
Both are about characters looking to escape some of the harsh realities of adulthood by returning to the lack of responsibility (and the seemingly limitless possibilities) of college.
Gillian Jacobs stars as Kate Conklin, a 35-year-old woman who is watching her married friends have babies while she gives birth to her debut novel.
Kate’s “baby” isn’t doing well. Her publisher cancels her book tour, and a rave review from the New York Times is the only thing that can prevent the book — and Kate’s literary career — from dying a quick death.
Her one promotional opportunity is an invitation to her alma mater at Southern Illinois University from her old professor Dave (Jemaine Clement), her first mentor and an unrequited crush. Once she’s there, he offers her a chance to stay with a teaching position.
Kate is staying at a bed and breakfast across the street from the “Writer’s Retreat,” the house she lived in as an undergrad. A request for a peak inside her old house gets her entangled with the lives of its current residents, especially when one of them believes his writer / girlfriend is cheating on him with Dave.
With an 80-minute running time, “I Used to Go Here” feels like it’s been pared down to the bits and characters that work best, but it also seems as if something is missing. Writer-director Kris Rey has created some great peripheral characters, like Rammel Chan as an eager-to-please student assigned to shuttle Kate around campus and Cindy Gold as the rules-obsessed proprieter of the bed and breakfast.
Maybe the best is Brandon Daley as the quirky Tall Brandon, a current resident of the writer’s retreat. His dry, off-kilter line delivery and gangly appearance is consistently entertaining. Hannah Marks, as the current darling of the SIU creative writing department and the potential cheating girlfriend, also stands out. Her idealism is contrasted with the pragmatism and calculation of Kate, who seems to have tailored her writing career to chase whatever trends appear to be popular at that moment in the publishing industry.
The movie relies heavily on the appeal of Jacobs. Like her characters on “Community” and Netflix’s “Love,” she is able to maintain her hold on the audience’s rooting interest while playing women sometimes making a mess out of their lives.
“I Used to Go Here” will be available on demand beginning Friday, but it would be easier to recommend if it was on a streaming service. The movie has its charms, particularly for fans of Jacobs. I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to my queue; it’s harder to justify as a specific purchase.
WHAT: “I Used to Go Here”
STARS: Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Josh Wiggins, Hannah Marks and Brandon Daley
STORYLINE: An author returns to her college alma mater about a dozen years after graduation and gets entangled with the lives of her former mentor / crush and the current students
DIRECTOR: Kris Rey
RATING: Not rated but would be a mild R for language, sexual situations and drug use.