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  I Used to Go Here Writer's Block
Year: 2020
Director: Kris Rey
Stars: Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Josh Wiggins, Forrest Goodluck, Hannah Marks, Kate Micucci, Zoe Chao, Jorma Taccone, Jennifer Joan Taylor, Khloe Janel, Brandon Daley, Rammel Chan, Cindy Gold, Kristina Valada-Viars, Tonray Ho, David Brown
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kate (Gillian Jacobs) has just had her new book published, so by all rights should be delighted, but then she receives a phone call from her publisher telling her that her book tour has been cancelled because the sales have not been going as well as they would have preferred. Not a good day, especially when her ex-fiance's mail is still being delivered to her apartment and she wonders if she can contact him again to pass it on and maybe... maybe meet up for a chat? In the meantime she is offered a small professional lifeline from her old college professor, David (Jemaine Clement), who invites her to return to her alma mater and give a reading...

That will at least get Kate away from all her friends who seem to have become pregnant recently, which makes her feel a lot less productive and useful, even less than she already did - indicative of the cringe comedy in store for you here was the scene where she meets up with them and a photo is taken, three women with their baby bumps and Kate holding her book up to her belly, forcing a smile. Our heroine was in her thirties, which according to this if you do not feel as though you have your life sorted out by now then you might as well admit you're an abject failure: you're supposed to have the family, the job, the social life and so on all worked out.

Jacobs was of course perfect for this sort of role, thanks to her appealing demeanour and aptitude with comedy, and she did not let down writer and director Kris Rey (formerly Kris Swanberg, but she got divorced). When Kate shows up at the college, she is delighted to see all her old haunts and some of the familiar faces, so much so that she is more comfortable in the company of the students than the older people she is meant to be interacting with, though David offers her a teaching position there. She spends the rest of the movie mulling over that offer as she grows more and more messed up thanks to her plans going even more awry in front of her.

Really the main problem for Kate is judgement. She is convinced she is being constantly judged for her situation, yet invites this form of critical appraisal by writing a book, Rey making the point that any act of creativity is also an act of self-flagellation since you want some form of approval for your creation, but equally that may not be on the cards. Actually, you may be opening yourself up to scathing takedowns, that are merely amplified to appear as if it is your entire personality and mentality being sized up, which in the case of some of the appraisers may well be the point of their opinion. Do you really need the approval of the people who judge you, or can you do without it, was the question posed? And are we in the modern world of social media geared to exist as entities boosted by that approval?

Mind you, Kate does make some bizarre choices, and some advice and maybe even a stern talking to would have set her on a sensible path, though the film is more accepting of her mistakes when we can perceive they will make her a more rounded person, just as her friends who stick with convention will not be able to latch onto. Jacobs was the ideal focus for this, so that no matter how dodgy her character gets, we are aware her desperate need to be validated has driven her to this mess, and we still like her because her flaws make her more human. She was supported by some neat turns, Clement on his usual fine form, but the younger cast impressed as well - there's a nice couple of scenes with student Brandon Daley and mother of his housemate Jennifer Joan Taylor that are both sweet and deeply weird simultaneously. It was touches like this that lifted the film out of basic indie ruts, and it had a proper beginning, middle and end, too - maybe it's not taking on any opinion that helps, but ones that want to look after you rather than the sniping for its own sake. Music by Curtis Heath.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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