I USED TO GO HERE
2020, R, 87 mins.
Gillian Jacobs as Kate Conklin / Jemaine Clement as David Kirkpatrick / Jorma Taccone as Bradley Cooper / Kate Micucci as Rachel / Hannah Marks as April / Josh Wiggins as Hugo / Brandon Daley as Tall BrandonWritten and directed by Kris Rey
I USED TO GO HERE is absolutely proof positive that a film with am extremely well worn premise (returning home to rediscover your roots) can be bolstered by the charming presence of its lead performer.
indie comedy's ace up its sleeve is Gillian Jacobs, who's probably more
familiar to most for her small screen work on shows like NBC's COMMUNITY
and HBO's GIRLS, and here she plays a struggling author who makes a
journey back to here alma mater and soon realizes that all of her past
educational and career aspirations have hopelessly not come true.
Writer/director Kris Rey plays with a considerable number of
familiar genre conventions, some of which are subverted, but just as many
others are adhered to, but I USED TO GO HERE feels more intimately
rendered and authentic in its character beats and individual moments, even
when it sometimes awkwardly veers between college frat house farce and
heartfelt sentiment. But with
Jacobs' confident presence, though, such nagging issues start to fade into
plays Kate, who is in a state of euphoria in the open scenes of the film,
cheerfully basking in the glow of her very first novel being released.
Cruel fate steps in immediately when a call from her publisher
reveals that her upcoming book tour has been abruptly cancelled due to the
book - the horrible sounding SEASONS PASSED - having less than promising
sales. Of course, her
publishers obnoxiously and falsely lay on the charm, trying to instill in
Kate that she just needs to keep plugging away at a career in literature.
This is horribly timed, especially seeing as Kate is also
experiencing issues of loneliness and longing after her most recent
relationship crashed and burned (she has naive hopes of being able to
re-connect with her ex, but when she begins cyber stalking his Instagram
feed it has become readily apparent that he's moved on with another
woman). Dejected and morally
broken down due to multiple setbacks, Kate begins to fear for the worse
steps in with a phone call one day from one of her former professors in
David Kilpatrick (Jemaine Clement) from the fictitious Illinois University
in Carbondale, who seems to really love her book with a passion, so much
so that he invites her back to campus after a 15 year absence to speak to
his classmates about being a novelist.
With literally nothing else to do, a very enthusiastic Kate agrees
and makes the pilgrimage back to her post secondary institution, and upon
arriving the throwback kick to the senses is unmistakably potent for her.
Even after a very awkward meeting with the head of the B&B that
she's staying at (an amusingly hostile Cindy Gold), Kate takes to
re-acclimating to her old campus like a fish to water and drinks as much
of it in as possible. She
decides to even make an impromptu visit to her old house, which has now
become a home for a bunch of aspiring college students and writers. Within no time, these group of spirited young adults take
Kate in as one of their own, and slowly but surely she begins to live
vicariously through their own trials and tribulations.
The kids - played by Josh Wiggins, Forrest Goodluck, Brandon Daley,
and Khloe Janel - kind of sense that beneath Kate's outwardly bubbly
facade lurks a woman of subjugated regrets and pain, so they try their
best to make her one of their own. Predictably,
Kate begins to realize that her old prof in David might have had other
things on his mind than promoting her failed novel.
though that (a) I'm not a woman and (b) I'm not a downtrodden novelist, I
found myself oddly relating to Kate's story throughout I USED TO GO HERE,
mostly for how the film accurately portrays all of the whirlwind of
conflicting emotions that can come over thirty and fortysomething people
when coming to the full realization that your hopes and dreams in college
never fully materialized afterwards.
I certainly remember my thirties as a time of great uncertainty and
remorse, coming in the form of a before-mid-life crisis.
I had many friends who settled down not only into careers, but into
marriages that later spawned families, something that the bachelor in me
looked on with selfish disappointment.
One of the more relatable themes in I USED TO GO HERE is the power
(good and bad) of looking back and nostalgia, the latter of which can
sometimes take an emotionally regressive toil on people that are already a
bit beaten up by life. One of the central mistakes that most individuals make when
it comes to trying to recapture their youth and pasts is the whole notion
of letting that all, well, stay in the past...and moving on.
These finer lessons are really driven home during many cringe
worthy moments of embarrassment for poor Kate when one of David's most
promising students in April (BANANA SPLIT's
wonderful Hannah Marks) has a few sit down chats with her about her own
writing aspirations. It soon becomes clear that Kate is in a whole
other qualitative league below this young and talented go-getter.
also goes through other demoralizing discoveries while reacquainting with
people from her past, like one with an old classmate (played by producer
and Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone), who becomes hilariously
unfiltered with her during a night out for drinks when he nonchalantly
reveals that he used to masturbate while thinking about her (yikes).
To make matters worse, she begins to piece together David's true
motives in a subplot that, to be frank, could be seen from a proverbial
mile away (that, and Clement is so damn good at playing this character
that's equal parts warm heartedly inviting and hideously slimy). Kate's only solace from her problem plagued stay at home is
with her new besties in the aforementioned college students, and even when
the film takes a bit of a nose dive into quirky partying antics (which
seems tonally disingenuous to what the makers are attempting here), I
liked how Rey makes Kate and her new confidants seem like genuine people
with real insecurities and worries. And
Jacobs sells Kate's headstrong willingness to try anything with her new
cohorts and her emotional implosion with believable nuance.
She wisely never overplays Kate as a broadly delineated aging
hipster wannabe, but rather as someone that has gone through the ringer
and just wants to belong to someone or something again.