Nate & Margaret


Nate & Margaret, directed by Nathan Adloff, is a best-friends-forever collage of gentle comic scenes between reasonably well-conceived characters, but it has little ambition beyond that. Square, 50-year-old Margaret (Chicago stage actress Natalie West) is out of place at the house parties she attends with her twenty-whatever neighbor and BFF Nate (Tyler Ross), and on the comedy-club stages where she pitches jokes about the abusive household in which she was raised. Nate is out of his element, too. A young gay man from a small and apparently intolerant town, he’s studying filmmaking in Chicago and going on dates for the first time. They’re a deliberately odd, Harold and Maude–style pairing, but the stakes in the older film are life and death. Here, an unusual friendship is challenged, slightly, by a mean boyfriend and a house burglary. Floppy-haired Ross is appealing as Nate, a shy, clever naïf dating a more experienced man, but the character is so self-possessed that it’s hard to worry about his romantic welfare. Adloff’s narrative ellipses are often frustrating: What, exactly, is up with the overfriendly comedy promoter who fondles Margaret’s legs while praising her act? Is he a sexual opportunist or a romantic possibility? Although Margaret progresses convincingly from clumsy, onstage amateur to acceptable comic, we only know Nate is a talented filmmaker because his teacher turns up for one scene to tell us. Narrative conflicts are introduced and swatted away in favor of an amiable sentimentality, two nice people being nice to each other.