Admit it. We’ve all had times when we’ve wished we could go back in time – not Tenet-style, but to our student days, when our lives were much less complicated and we didn’t give a second thought to the future. Even if we didn’t enjoy academic life that much, the responsibilities were minimal – essentially an extra three or four years of being a teenager – and the rosy hued appeal is obvious for anybody who’s reached their thirties and hasn’t figured out what their life is all about.
Which is where we find Kate (Community‘s Gillian Jacobs) in Kris Rey’s I Used To Go Here. At 35 and with her first book published, she should be feeling a sense of achievement, but sales aren’t going well, her signing tour is cancelled, her fiancée has left and all her friends are pregnant. She’s hit a brick wall, so an invitation to speak at her former university is perfectly timed. She re-connects with her former lecturer, now a professor, David (Jermaine Clement), who offers her a teaching gig, but she also becomes increasingly involved with a group of students who live in what used to her house – complete with the stars she stuck on her bedroom ceiling.
It’s all a welcome relief from the stress of her real life and Kate morphs into something close to another college kid, going to parties, generally hanging out, wearing borrowed T-shirts and attracting plenty of attention from the opposite sex. Thanks to Jacobs’ winning performance, we’re engaged by how she puts her life on hold, though more surprised at her inability to see through David’s interest in her, which clearly dates back to her student days. But her attention is still elsewhere, until she gets a large reality check – through the wonders of social media, of course.
The troublesome thing about I Used To Go Here is that the idea is just so thin, even though we’d dearly love it to have more substance. The idea of Kate being a writer feels forced, simply a mechanism to get her in the company of the younger students, and Rey’s attempts to develop this strand of the plot feel forced. Her relationship with pregnant best friend Laura (a very funny Zoe Chao) has more of the ring of truth and produces most of the laughs, and there are moments when the students are more mature and compassionate than Kate’s usual social circle. But, equally, there are sequences – one, in particular, with Kate and the students spying on David – which are clumsy and simply flounder.
Jacobs and Clement’s names at the top of the cast list immediately whet our appetites for plenty of laughs and, while the script gives her ample opportunity to flex her comedy chops, Clement only puts in a handful of appearances and has little more to do than be the middle aged creep with an eye for the younger ladies. There’s most definitely a story to be told here about thirty-something angst, be it female or male, but it all gets lost amid the under-powered storyline and uneven tone. A little more conviction would have made all the difference. And that probably applies to Kate herself as well.
Comedy | Digital | Cert:15 | Signature Entertainment | 14 September 2020 | Dir. Kris Rey | Gillian Jacobs, Jermaine Clement, Zoe Chao, Josh Wiggins, Forrest Goodluck.