As someone who has just tip-toed into their thirties, I can attest it is a trying time if you haven’t already ticked all of the stereotypical boxes that are expected of you at this time. Career, a family of your own, homeowner, stable life. These should all be in place by now, right? This is the predicament we find I Used To Go Here’s Kate (Gillian Jacobs) in Kris Rey’s enjoyable 4th feature.
Her engagement is called off, her first book isn’t doing so well, and all her friends are having babies. Kate Conklin (Jacobs) is in a rut when out of nowhere she gets a call from her old professor, David Kirkpatrick (Jermaine Clement), asking her to come back to her old university to do a reading. She gets sucked into college life again, hanging out with students and reconnecting with her old self.
I Used To Go Here does not reinvent the wheel with its adult returns home/college plotline, but it is still enjoyable. As these types of tales tend to do, we see Kate hit one confidence hit after another as she begins to regret coming back to the place of her former glories, her ex-professor who she had tried to begin a relationship with but was turned down due to University rules is now married and seemingly dating his new star student. A date with an ex-classmate goes wayward from the start. The only thing that seems to go right is the love she is receiving from the students in her old college house.
Quickly Kate reverts back to her younger college version of herself thanks to the comfort of her sorority house and non-judgemental opinions. This of course takes us down some of the old college tropes that we are used to seeing, but happily, I Used To Go Here doesn’t focus on those too much. It wants to tell Kate’s story of finding herself or at least accepting where she is at this point in her life and progressing how she sees fit from that.
It is pleasing to see this decision from Rey as there was the fear that the film would solely go down this route and it is a path that has been too well-trodden to make interesting. There is a lot of depth to Kate’s story as it is self-aware, or at the least Kate is. Kate is in crisis mode and is just trying to figure out what went wrong and how to course-correct the ship. With films of this ilk, the writer is usually (secretly) the best writer of their generation or some nonsense, here we are on a grounded level.
Rey writes Kate to know she is a good writer, but not the best (certainly not yet anyway). She isn’t a fully formed person yet and spoiler most people are in the same boat who are in their 30s. Kate is allowed to go down a journey of self-discovery without long emotional monologues, this is greatly appreciated by the way, Kris Rey. This feels far more real than other films in this little subcategory, we slowly see the frustrations of Kate as she tries and fails at times to figure things out for herself, which is as relatable as it gets really.
While Kate is a fully fleshed-out character, the subplots for the film seem to fall a little flat due to the lack of development with the rest of the cast. It feels as if some plot points were just plain underwritten which is a real shame and also surprising due to the short runtime. Rey had more than enough extra time to add in more to these plots and characters to enhance the overall feel of the film. It is this exclusion of a strong well-developed cast that enables a film to grow its audience. A missed opportunity, but not one that should be dwelled on as there is an awful lot to enjoy here.
Gillian Jacobs undoubtedly is the draw and the reason the film works as well as it does. This is a funny and charming performance. You cannot but want to root for Kate into getting it together and as said, she is a relatable character performed by an actress who is continually growing and ably keeping that spark of humour that is so appealing to audiences in films like this. It is great work from Jacobs and allows her to stretch her drama chops a little more, which is always welcome from someone with her talent.
What helps I Used To Go Here is the strong supporting cast, which makes the lack of plot time with them all the more damaging. They are more than capable of filling out the films short 80-minute runtime to make a longer version. As mentioned it is a slightly missed opportunity, but a compliment to Rey’s writing as I enjoyed these characters that much that I wanted more from them.
Does I Used To Go Here stand out from the packed crowd of the millennial coming of age (read adulthood… Yes coming of age can also now drag into the thirties thanks to us millennials) film? Barely, but regardless it has a shining performance from Gillian Jacobs and is smartly made when it focuses on its core character. An interesting and engaging film that cannot help but be enjoyed.
Drama, Comedy | USA, 2020 | 15 | Signature Entertainment | Dir. Kris Rey | Gillian Jacob, Jermaine Clement, Josh Wiggins