Gillian Jacobs is a national treasure. The former Community star occasionally pops up in major studio projects like Life of the Party and Hot Tub Time Machine 2. For the most part, though, she's been busy making a series of very interesting indie films, including Life Partners, Bad Milo, and Don't Think Twice. If you want to see the actress at the peak of her talents, absolutely be sure to catch I Used to Go Here, a funny, poignant look at what it's like to endure personal and professional disappointment simultaneously.
Jacobs plays Kate Conklin, an author whose new book has been released to bad reviews and worse sales. This setback comes on the heels of breaking up with her fiancee. One day, she gets an invitation to do a reading at her alma mater, courtesy of David (the excellent Jemaine Clement), the writing professor who mentored her back in the day. Kate accepts the offer and, over the course of a few days, befriends a student named Hugo (Josh Wiggins) who thinks his girlfriend April (Banana Split's Hannah Marks) is cheating on him, confronts some painful truths about David, and eventually figures out why her career has gotten off-track.
I Used to Go Here flips the whole “you can't go home again” idea on its ear. The movie suggests not only that you can go home again, but that doing so when you're lost is a great way of hitting the reset button. Through her often-comical adventures, Kate reconnects with the things that made her want to write in the first place. She's able to get back to her authentic self, an act that starts to give her a new outlook on her writing.
Of course, the character has to go through a lot of hilarious, cringe-worthy situations first, including an awkward encounter with David's wife and a disastrous date with an old college chum (Jorma Taccone) in which she attempts to surreptitiously take his picture. Laughs come frequently in I Used to Go Here. It's been said that people are less likely to laugh out loud when watching a movie alone, because laughter is contagious. That's possibly true; however, I laughed out loud multiple times watching the film by myself. The dialogue and scenarios are just that witty.
Jacobs makes Kate's predicament work. She's a very good actress, so all the necessary emotions are on-point. At the same time, she has a natural down-to-earth quality that, as on Community, makes us believe things that would otherwise seem trite. Kate, for example, parties with the members of a writers' group, and even flirts with one of the members. A thirtysomething reverting to late adolescence/early adulthood reeks of contrivance, except that Jacobs brings such charm to the character that it plays authentically.
Written and directed by Kris Rey, I Used to Go Here is the kind of movie where even the most minor supporting characters are fully drawn. (There's one named “Tall Brandon” who gets a laugh every time he comes onscreen.) At the center is a very relatable story of a lost woman seeking to find herself by going back to the location of a happier time in her life. It's a picture that makes you smile and feel good, and Gillian Jacobs delivers one of the year's best, most heartfelt performances.
out of four
I Used to Go Here is rated R for language, sexual content, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.