Nate (Tyler Ross) and Margaret (Natalie West) make an unlikely best friend duo. He’s a young film student, and she’s in her 50s. He’s never been in a romantic relationship, and she’s never been in a good one, coming from both an abusive child-life and eventual marriage. They both enjoy each other’s company, however, and spend most of their time together either watching Margaret’s stumbling attempts at stand-up comedy or on-set with Nate as he films his latest school assignment.
Things begin to change when Nate meets James (Conor McCahill), and the two begin a relationship. Sexually aggressive and keen on getting drunk, hanging at clubs and generally partying, James doesn’t quite fit with the normal best friend schedule Nate and Margaret have going. As Nate navigates his new relationship, Margaret begins to make real headway with her stand-up routine and their lives begin to head away from each other.
Nate & Margaret is a pleasant film that delivers a somewhat odd premise, the couple’s best friendship, but really focuses more on their lives and personal growth than how strange they must seem. The film also allows the audience to experience the same feelings and curiosity, and potential judgements, as those around Nate and Margaret, as we’re dropped right into the tale.
There’s no huge setup, no voiceover narration explaining who the characters are or how they became friends. Filmmaker Nathan Adloff obviously sees the audience as capable enough of handling a story without hand-holding. It’s a choice I appreciated, because while Nate and Margaret’s best friendship may seem odd from an outside viewpoint, they don’t owe me an explanation anymore than they owe those around them. I’m okay with just going with the flow, and seeing where it takes me.
Another choice I enjoyed was the use of editing and montage to show Margaret’s growth as a comedian, but not in the most traditional way. Often, if we’re going to see a comedy set grow, the montage will be of a bunch of different jokes, giving the illusion that the comedian is just filling out the set. In this case, we get to see the same joke as it is tweaked via different phrasings and deliveries, as the joke gets more laughs and Margaret becomes more confident in her performance. The result is that we see comedy evolve in a more realistic manner.
In the end, Nate & Margaret is a pleasant film that has a few moments of drama, but is primarily a sweet story of a unique friendship hitting a rough patch. Nothing happens in the film that is too awful or horrendous for anyone to bear; it’s more like everyone’s day-to-day existence. We all have our little dramas, s**t happens, sometimes we fall out of, and back in, to friendships. The film is true, comfortable and overall entertaining.
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