I Used to Go Here

Movie Information

Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement and an appealing cast are delightful in this sneakily smart campus comedy.
Genre: Comedy
Director: Kris Rey
Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Zoe Chao
Rated: NR

A college graduate in a state of emotional and professional ennui, returning to his or her alma mater in search of inspiration and/or guidance isn’t a new concept, but as filtered through the talents of writer/director Kris Rey in I Used to Go Here, it feels remarkably fresh.

The well-made comedy centers on 35-year-old Chicago writer Kate (Gillian Jacobs, Don’t Think Twice), whose debut novel is underperforming to the point that its publishers cancel her book tour. Atop this career disappointment, her ex-fiancé won’t return her calls or texts, and all her friends seem to be pregnant, so when her former Illinois University professor David Kirkpatrick (Jemaine Clement) invites her to do a reading on campus, all of the ingredients for a quality rebound story start falling into place.

Back in Carbondale — home of fictional IU’s inspiration, Southern Illinois University, of which Rey (Unexpected) is an alum — Kate encounters a series of goofy yet realistic characters, beginning with her overly earnest grad assistant chauffeur, Elliot (Rammel Chan, The End of the Tour).

Utilizing the uniquely charming brand of jaded optimism she’s cultivated throughout her career, Jacobs employs her skillset to great effect as Kate navigates familiar and new faces. Whether irking her bed-and-breakfast’s owner or befriending the quirky students who now live in her former house, she’s a joy to behold, and adds new layers while trying to get a read on David, with whom she sensed a mutual connection during her undergrad days.

Two of comedy’s most gifted stars, Clement and Jacobs shine brightest when they share scenes. And with the exception of Josh Wiggins (Greyhound) — whose Hugo is distractingly puppy-dog interested in Kate, an attitude that doesn’t jibe with the heartbreak he allegedly feels on account of his girlfriend April (Hannah Marks, Banana Split) possibly cheating on him — the film’s ensemble ably supports the two leads.

But beyond the bubbly intergenerational fun and measured character growth, I Used to Go Here further stands apart from its genre peers by virtue of its unpredictability. Despite building to two fairly inevitable romantic entanglements, one hookup is more complicated than it appears, and the other is handled with applaudable maturity.

Even the reason for Kate’s wedding bell blues is more soulful and self-empowering than her actions initially suggest — a testament to Rey’s knowledge of and willingness to subvert rom-com expectations, as well as her commitment to challenging gender norms.

Available to rent starting Aug. 7 via grailmoviehouse.com

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA).

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