Published Jun 23, 2020The thing about being in your mid-30s is that you're not quite young enough to realize you're out of touch, and you're not quite old enough to be okay with it. That strange tension sets the subtext for I Used to Go Here, a fantastically subtle comedy that will surely push Kris Rey beyond the limits of her mumblecore beginnings.
As she's done many times before, Gillian Jacobs once again shines as a wonderful and complex character whose insecurities and failings are masked by an outspoken peppiness. Here, she plays Kate, a budding 35-year-old novelist who has just released her debut book to such little fanfare that her publishers are forced to cancel her book tour.
There's one person who's still keen on the book, however — Kate's former professor David (Jemaine Clement, another perfect casting choice as he exudes extreme sartorial academia in a wide variety of brown suit jackets). He invites Kate to return to her alma mater for a reading, and the dizzying dose of attention quickly goes to her head. She quickly learns that David has ulterior motives while also facing her own mid-30s mortality in contrast to the students who are bursting with life.
It's a small story, to be sure, but its two leads mesh perfectly, and their performances are bolstered by scene-stealing bits from an overly keen passenger van driver (Rammel Chan) and an extremely tall boy named Tall Brandon (Brandon Daley).
Kris Rey was previously Kris Swanberg, the wife of mumblecore kingpin Joe Swanberg. They divorced last year, and this first work with her new last name feels like the start of something special. While the lived-in hyper-realism of her previous genre remains in tact, there's a silliness to I Used to Go Here that elevates it above niche, nerdy film circles. One can't help but consider the influence of the Lonely Island, who produced the film and whose Jorma Taccone appears as a character named Bradley Cooper (sharing a name with an A-lister is never really addressed).
The result is a film that both fun and aching, like a coming-of-age movie for people in their mid-30s — that time when the cracks of disappointment and lost opportunity start to shine through one's accomplishments. Typing it out, it sounds depressing as hell. But thankfully we've got Tall Brandon to help us ease the pain.
Calgary Underground Film Festival has moved online for its 2020 edition. Buy tickets over at the festival's website. (Party Over Here)