Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from indie darling writer-director Kris Rey (Unexpected), I Used to Go Here is a new comedy exploring the nostalgia that one feels for the glory days of their lives. Although the movie doesn’t always reach its full potential, plenty of wit and a great cast allow this to be an enjoyable, if inconsequential watch.
The film follows a writer in her mid-thirties as she returns to her alma mater for a book reading of her newly published novel, soon finding herself drawn back into her old ways of when she was in college. Ultimately, the movie is a relatively standard early onset midlife crisis story as the protagonist struggles to balance her professional needs and obligations with the desire to capture the passion and energy of her youth.
However, what makes the film so effective is that Rey infuses the character with a great deal of honesty. The movie has a lot to say about being a creator and the range of emotions that goes along with that lifestyle. Anyone who has ever pursued a career in any sort of creative field will undeniably find something relatable in Kate’s story.
Gillian Jacobs is wonderful in her leading role. This movie proves that Jacobs is a stronger actress when she is not typecast as the ditsy type of character she usually plays. When she is given more substantial material, as she was in this case, she is able to add a great deal of nuance to the role. Jemaine Clement is the other big name in the cast, and he is very funny in his role.
The pacing of the film is very free-flowing, with the movie defined only by a loose narrative. The literal goal of the protagonist matters much less than her metaphysical goal, the main arc of the film being Kate as she tries to accept the changes in her personality and the ways in which that affects her as a writer.
The main thing that keeps the movie moving along is its humor. Over the course of the film, Kate finds herself in some pretty humorous situations. Although the outcome of many of these is predictable when the movie heads a bit too far into genre tropes, there are still plenty of laughs to be had, and ones that are rightfully earned at that.
What holds the film, back, though, is its seemingly unending desire to be inoffensive. Although the movie is sweet and pleasant as a whole, one almost wishes that it had been a bit more edgy at times. At multiple points in the film, it seems like Rey is going to explore a deeper and more hard-hitting issue, only for the script to back down suddenly.
I Used to Go Here is certainly a very enjoyable movie, and while it could have used a bit more substance, it is a well-made little indie as a whole. Thanks to the star power in front of and behind the camera (the film was executive produced by The Lonely Island), this will likely catch on with audiences.
I Used to Go Here was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
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