College is a thrilling gateway into adulthood and freedom, a means of declaring one’s independence, and a shot at reinvention and discovery. Yes, a new school year comes complete with the promise of new experiences, new opportunities, new friendships, and new loves. But what if those “new” experiences aren’t “new” at all? What if the college experience—and, indeed the entire adult experience—is as formulaic and predictable as a YA novel or a rom-com? Those are the questions posed in The College Girl, a deadpan, aggressively normal feature-length satire from Milwaukee director Jon Salimes.
Shot mostly in and around Marquette University, The College Girl follows the journey of Jane (Katie Hamilton), a first-year writing student who makes the move from “up north” to the big city. Awkward friendships, awkward relationships, awkward classes, awkward calls to mom and dad, lame parties, nightmare internships, and—gasp—taking the bus are just a few of the rites of passage Jane faces with a weary and aloof resolve. “You’re my second contact, right after my parents,” Jane tells a would-be-suitor after exchanging numbers.
The College Girl’s slow, methodical, and sometimes snail-pace storytelling, along with its bone-dry sense of satire, isn’t for everyone, though fans of Jim Jarmusch and Stranger Than Paradise will find plenty to like here. Salimes uses his small budget to his advantage, setting his scenes in empty hallways, sparsely populated bars, and dispiritingly bland classrooms. If anything, the chance to see preeminent Milwaukee experimental musician Jon Mueller play an oblivious creative writing instructor is worth the film’s runtime alone. (Mueller isn’t the only Milwaukee musician to make an appearance, though revealing another would spoil the surprisingly sweet and hopeful ending.)