Wistful reminiscing is one of the few CDC-approved, COVID-safe activities we have left. Writer/director Kris Rey’s I Used to Go Here argues that you should be very careful when you go poking at your memories with a stick. The most likely result is that your brain goes full pinata, spewing chunky globs of your perception and self-worth all over your mental carpet.
Kate (Gillian Jacobs) is a 35-year-old author who has just published her first novel and had a complicated off-screen breakup with her fiancee, who she now very understandably Insta-stalks. After her book tour is canceled faster than a sci-fi show on Fox, Kate agrees to return to her collegiate alma mater, Southern Illinois University, well-known as the Yale of states that touch Kentucky.
Upon her unceremonious return, Kate is forced to reevaluate virtually everything she thought she knew about the things that made her who she thought she was. Her influential professor, David (Jermaine Clement), is actually a disingenuous and lecherous boob. The current students inhabiting the house she lived in while at school are reminders that Kate and her friends were not unique. The classes and conversations Kate has about writing reveal that she’s also probably not actually any good at her chosen profession. Oh, and a weirdo she used to know named Bradley Cooper (Jorma Taccone) tries to lure her into a three-way after revealing his masturbatory fantasies about her.
The grotesque stumble down memory lane doesn’t end with a prescriptive message about what to do after you realize that your entire outlook and understanding of life is built on a foundation of festering bullshit. In that way, I Used to Go Here is both wholly unsatisfying and completely reflective of how life actually works. Realizing that your existence is, you know, sort of fundamentally broken doesn’t grant you the skills or insight into how to fix it. In that way, Rey’s film is quite honest, even if it may piss you right off.
I Used to Go Here thrives off of Jacobs’ wildly underrated ability to be hilariously sincere. Actually, virtually all the performances are aces, down to the quirky minor roles, like one college student’s lonely, lonely mother (Jennifer Joan Taylor). The flick’s biggest flaw is leaving too much unexplored. None of the supporting cast gets to even glimpse a full character arc, with loads of plot threads demanding to be yanked off of Weezer’s sweater.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to want more of a movie, but when said movie can’t limp to even an hour and a half runtime, it’s hard not to feel slightly cheated. With the right 20 minutes or so carefully stuffed inside this comfy pillow of an indie comedy, its mild revelation that says “maybe you just kind of suck a little?” could have felt something modestly profound.
As it stands, I Used to Go Here is a perfectly solid reminder that the old adage is very wrong. You can go home again. You just probably won’t like yourself as much when you get back.
Grade = B
Other Critical Voices to Consider
- Natalia Keogan at Paste says the film “begins as an exploration of millennial ennui in the face of failure, but it is ultimately uninterested in delving deeper into the consequences of the selfishness that can come with coping.”
- Shalavé Cawley of the Austin Chronicle found it “harder to watch Kate gradually embody more and more negative stereotypes about her generation.”
- Carla Hay at Culture Mix says she experienced it as an “emotionally authentic journey.”