PASSABLY POIGNANT

Jacobs aces it as a bummed alum back on cam­pus in spotty comedy-drama

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper RICHARD ROEPER MOVIE COLUM­NIST Kris Rey will do Q&A’s at screen­ings of the film at 8:20 and 10:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day at the ChiTown Movies drive-in, 2343 S. Throop St. Tick­ets: mu­sicboxthe­atre.com

The back-to-school comedy/ drama “I Used To Go Here” has a lot go­ing for it pretty deep into the story — but like a col­lege fresh­man who aces the first se­mes­ter but hits the wall af­ter the hol­i­day break, it runs into some un­ex­pected bar­ri­ers and walks qui­etly across the fin­ish line. Still, the over­all GPA is in the solid B range.

De­spite some late mis­giv­ings, there’s much to rec­om­mend in the tal­ented writer-direc­tor Kris Rey’s in­die-vibe story, from the pitch-per­fect de­pic­tion of of­f­cam­pus life at a state school to the man­ner in which char­ac­ters rely on tech­nol­ogy to learn the truth about cer­tain re­la­tion­ships, to the win­ning and au­then­tic per­for­mance by Gil­lian Jacobs as a 35-year-old Chicago writer ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ca­reer and per­sonal crises si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Jacobs’ Kate has re­cently pub­lished her first novel, ti­tled “Sea­sons Passed” — but as she learns, ini­tial sales have been so dis­ap­point­ing they’ve can­celed her pro­mo­tional book tour. If that’s not bad enough, Kate opens a box filled with in­vi­ta­tions to her wed­ding — a wed­ding that ain’t hap­pen­ing be­cause her fi­ancé dumped her and ap­par­ently has moved on to new ro­man­tic ground rather quickly. Oh, and three of Kate’s clos­est friends are preg­nant at the same time, which makes her feel like she’s be­hind in terms of grown-up life progress.

Je­maine Cle­ment ex­udes just the right com­bi­na­tion of pro­fes­so­rial au­thor­ity and not-so-sub­tle sleazi­ness as David, who was Kate’s men­tor in col­lege and is still teach­ing at her alma mater in down­state Car­bon­dale. David in­vites Kate to give a read­ing of her novel, and she jumps at the chance to get out of Chicago, re­con­nect with her past and see David for the first time in 15 years.

A fan­tas­ti­cally funny Ram­mel Chan plays the su­per-chip­per stu­dent guide El­liot, who picks up Kate at the train sta­tion and takes her to the bed & break­fast where she’ll be stay­ing — which is right across the street from her old col­lege house. Kate quickly falls into a rebel daugh­ter/dis­ap­prov­ing mother dy­namic with the no-non­sense Mrs. Beeter (Cindy Gold, bril­liant), who runs the B&B, and she finds her­self hang­ing out at the old house with the cur­rent oc­cu­pants, who are be­mused by the pres­ence of this 35-year-old woman but are col­lec­tively a kind and un­der­stand­ing bunch who rec­og­nize Kate is a mess and make her part of their group. (The at­ten­tion to de­tail is pitch-per­fect, from the room­mate who spoons a bowl of ce­real while am­bling about the house to the empty beer bot­tles perched on the ledge on the front porch.)

Some later devel­op­ments, most notably a mis­sion to re­veal David for the cad he truly is, are broader in tone and not as in­volv­ing as the buildup. But there’s a won­der­fully weird de­vel­op­ment re­gard­ing the mother of one of the room­mates, and a pos­si­ble fling for Kate that comes across as sweet when it could be off-putting. Through­out, the al­ways lik­able Gil­lian Jacobs cre­ates a mem­o­rable por­trayal of a woman who’s a mess but still rather won­der­ful.

GRAVITAS VEN­TURES

The stu­dents in her old col­lege dwelling be­friend 35-year-old Kate (Gil­lian Jacobs) in “I Used to Go Here.”

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