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'I Used to Go Here' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic One of my top memories from attending the 2016 Critics Choice Awards was a conversation with comic actress Gillian Jacobs. She was there representing her movie, “Don’t Think Twice”, which was nominated for Best Comedy.

We chatted for awhile, and then Jacobs asked how long I was staying in Los Angeles. I told her I was flying back to NY the next day to finish my first semester of college. She immediately responded amusingly with, “Look around, Jackson. None of us went to college.”

I guess it only seems like Jacobs went to college because of her six years on “Community” and her role opposite Melissa McCarthy in 2018’s “Life of the Party”. In the new indie dramedy, “I Used to Go Here”, Jacobs stars as Kate, a Chicago writer who’s just had her first novel published. She’s invited back to her alma mater by her former professor/mentor (played by Jemaine Clement). So, 15 years after graduating, Kate returns to the (fictional) Illinois University campus where she once was a star to read an excerpt from her book and speak with the current writing students. It becomes a weekend she and many others will never forget.

You see Kate’s a mess. Her fiance has broken-off their engagement and her novel isn’t selling. And that’s only part of it. Maybe going back to where she was a success a decade and a half ago will be just what Kate needs to turn her current life around. Maybe not.

There’s so much to like about “I Used to Go Here”. And it starts with the script. Writer/director Kris Rey has taken a rather conventional set-up and crafted an unconventional, bittersweet, wacky, poignant film.

This is one of those movies that invites you to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. And Jacobs makes it so easy. She packs millennial Kate with a combination of angst, false courage and blind optimism — making her completely relatable and so easy to root for.

In fact, Rey nicely avoids potential stereotype problems with all her characters. And, as someone not far removed from the college experience, I truly appreciate the spot-on details throughout. Rey clearly knows the ins and outs of the life of an author, as well as the world of academia. She also offers the most restrained depiction of college party life ever seen on screen. This use of restraint is also reflected Kate’s novel and in the larger issue of moving-on from college life to adult life.

“I Used to Go Here” is packed with offbeat characters, all just real enough not be be “quirky”. These include the both former and current students and the owner of a local Bed and Breakfast. And Clement’s David delivers a few anti-critics lines that are absolutely gold.

This is a rare film that’s flat-out funny and filled with smart, observational, “big picture” dialogue and emotional themes that hit home. Does the third act get a little “out there”? Absolutely. But for the most part, “I Used to Go Here” is a triumph, and one of the best “find yourself” movies of the past 10 years.

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LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic

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