“I Used to Go Here” is a casual, awkward title for a casual, awkward little movie about an author who returns to her college to give some lectures and tries to come to terms with who she has become since graduating. Gillian Jacobs (“Community”) plays Kate, who has succeeded in publishing a novel that is not doing very well and in attending the baby shower for her best friend while facing the pain of her own canceled wedding. With her book tour canceled by her publisher, a request to return to her beloved alma mater is a very attractive offer.
Similar to the Elizabeth Olsen movie “Liberal Arts” and even “Old School,” this taps into the nostalgia many of us have for the singular delights of going to college. It’s not just the fun of being surrounded by so many people, parties and the more freewheeling delights of that age — it is the sense of potential you felt and were specifically nurturing during college. Kate is promoting the novel she dreamed of writing while in college, but the real experience is not all it’s cracked up to be.
This movie works better on a micro level than at a broader view; the details are often excellent, like when Kate shows up for her reading wearing the same blazer she is wearing in her author photo to promote the event. It is perhaps appropriate it feels like a novel at times, intimate and personal. “I Used to Go Here” does not have a strong narrative drive; it is more a series of scenes.
However, these scenes are funny and touching and ring true, and Jacobs is a winning screen presence. Her character, Kate, is vulnerable and struggling, but she also has a refreshingly clear-eyed view of her own limitations and issues. It is nice to see a believable adult woman on screen.
Kate is supposed to be staying at a bed and breakfast during her visit, but she winds up spending more time across the street at the house she and her best friend rented while they were students, which is currently inhabited by a trio of delightfully, perhaps unrealistically, pleasant and nurturing young men. Kate attends a party there, marvels at her old room, and pretty much never leaves, finding herself quickly enmeshed in their relationship dramas and leaning on them to support herself.
Jemaine Clement plays Kate’s former creative writing professor, who was once a hot young novelist and is now dealing with his own professional disappointments and personal complications. He is coping with his advancing age and dwindling creative prospects — expressed in one succinct detail in which he states he is self-publishing his next novel — exactly how you would imagine a man with lots of influence over poetically inclined and naive young women would.
One blank spot in the film is Kate’s failed relationship with her ex-fiancee, which is not really developed at all. She opens a big box of their wedding invitations and stalks his social media accounts, but we don’t get a sense of what happened between them or what the relationship meant to her. It functioned more as a social marker of her unsatisfactory situation, and it seems like a missed opportunity to develop her character more.
As Kate meanders through her college visit, she comes to face her own culpability in her broken engagement and the lukewarm performance of her novel. Eventually, the collegiate spell is broken, but she experiences a mild recharge to her ambitions. By brushing against her past, she does not exactly get a do-over, but she gets clarity to what she needs to do in the future.
Real life is rarely epic, and neither is “I Used to Go Here.” It rings true in its depiction of the small scale revelations we are sometimes afforded in life, and the characters are sweet and funny, if not always as profound as they might be. Adults might find a lot to identify within this gentle character study, which is well worth its particularly short time investment.
“I Used to Go Here” is currently streaming on Video on Demand.
New This Week:
“The Bay of Silence”: A man stands by his wife when she is accused of their son’s murder, but he might be wrong.
“Valley of the Gods”: A reclusive trillionaire and his biographer interact in a film that promises to include Navajo lore. Starring John Malkovich.
“Waiting for the Barbarians”: Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson star in this story of a magistrate at a distant outpost who wonders exactly what he’s fighting for. Based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee.
“The Tax Collector”: Shia LaBeouf stars in this David Ayer film about two enforcers for a crime lord who face an uncertain future when an old rival returns.
The Crescent Theater is reopening August 28 with the presumably incredible and innovative Armando Iannucci film “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” which takes Dickens’ coming-of-age story and gives it the twist that only the brilliant satirist who brought us “Veep” can do. Dev Patel stars as David Copperfield, and the cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw.
Nexus Cinema Dining is reopening August 28 and will be announcing their schedule soon.
Regal Mobile Stadium 18 is reopening August 28 and will be announcing their schedule soon.
AMC Mobile 16 is reopening August 20. Theaters will allow 30 percent capacity and masks are required. You can get back into the theaters to see:
“Unhinged”: Russell Crowe stars as a man taking road rage to a terrifying conclusion;
“Words on Bathroom Walls”: The story of a young man who gets expelled from school and tries to start over with the help of a meaningful romance;
“Cut Throat City”: From director RZA comes the story of four men driven to desperation and a dangerous heist in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina;
“The Burnt Orange Heresy”: Hired to steal a rare painting from an enigmatic artist (Donald Sutherland), an art dealer (Mick Jagger!) becomes consumed by his own greed.
AMC Mobile 16 is also showing a roster of pop culture classics, including “Back to the Future,” “Black Panther,” “Inception,” “Jumanji: The Next Level,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Goonies.”
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