Gillian Jacobs passes the test of humor and heart
Gillian Jacobs is known as Britta Perry on the “Community” series, and for appearing in movies like “Life of the Party,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” “Dean,” and “Don’t Think Twice.” In “I Used to Go Here,” she’s given a lead role as 35-year-old writer named Kate Conklin, who just went through a breakup and her tour of her next book fails to ignite, but has been invited for a book reading at her alma mater: Illinois University.
Writer/director Kris Rey provides Jacobs with a certain kind of sweetness and humor that makes her delightful. You support her issues from beginning to end, and it’s never sappy or dull. “I Used to Go Here” is sentimental and sincere, thereby allowing Jacobs to open her eyes to the many possibilities.
She reunites with her former professor and crush (Jeanine Clement), who is now married to Alexis (Kristina Valada-Viars), and she also visits her old college house, meeting new faces like Animal (Forrest Goodluck), Hugo (Josh Wiggins), Tall Brandon (Brandon Daley), and Emma (Khloe Janel).
The sense of humor is neither mean-spirited or outdated. It’s honest and funny, like when Kate’s driver Elliott (Rammel Chan) is one drugs, just as he’s about to drive the getaway car. She and her new friends were trying to expose the college professor as a fornicator, for the record. And when Tall Brandon is the one only in the hunch wearing a mask.
But for the most part, “I Used to Live Here” allows Jacobs to be herself, by balancing her emotions and diving deep inside her character. Besides the break-up and book tour cancellation, she has to deal with some harsh reviews of her new book with reasons including her writing to be sappy and the lousy cover. Even she thinks the cover sucks. There are those who wouldn’t read reviews, because of the criticisms that appear, and even I respect and value their opinions. I may give out bad reviews, but I don’t want to be a monster. Anyway, the point is, she isn’t the whiny, generic, and annoying 30s girl; she’s a down-to-earth human with values and opinions.
There some characters who barely get their structure, but there are still some fine supporting roles from Chan (with his positive energy), Wiggins (having the most effective connection with Jacobs), Daley (making an impressive and comical debut), and Clement (adding taste to his character). In a recent category of an older woman returning to her college, it does a more a funnier and more charming job than “Life of the Party” did. Kris Rey guides the levity and actors with enough heart to keep you involved.
Why is it that most artisan films these days allow comedy actors to expand their horizons than most mainstream flicks? Maybe it’s because of their choice of tone and consistency or maybe they like to distinguish themselves from commercialism. Derivative as this sounds (because of how often I discuss it in my other articles), it should be a reminder.
It’s always nice to return to your alma mater, and seeing Gillian Jacobs doing so is absolutely fun.
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