|Qfest Film Review: Nate & Margaret|
posted by Valerie Temple on Jul 19, 2012 10:00am | comments
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Valerie Temple is the Programming Manager of Bryn Mawr Film Institute,
as well as a filmmaker, video producer and writer whose work has
appeared on such sites as The Awl. This is her first Qfest and she is
super excited about it. You can follow her on Twitter or stalk her on Facebook.
Natalie West is not a name that most people know, but I am not most people. As a fan of all things Roseanne, I remember her fondly for her role as Crystal Anderson, the southern-fried friend of the Conner family on the beloved 80s sitcom. I had always wondered what happened to the comically-gifted actress who, save for a couple supporting roles in little-seen independent movies – had all but faded out of public sight since leaving the high-profile television show in 1995. So, imagine my surprise (and delight) to see her flex her sharp comedy muscles as one of the leads in Nate & Margaret, a flawed but engaging story about two unlikely friends.
West kills as Margaret, an unmarried 52-year-old coffee shop waitress who gigs around Chicago in the hopes of making it in stand-up comedy. Her biggest fan is her neighbor and best friend Nate (Tyler Ross), a 19-year-old film student, who accompanies her on an early disastrous audition where she tells his favorite joke, an “edgy” bit about UHaul. (“They should call it U-Rape!”) Although she possesses a genuine quality as a comedian, Margaret knows that her lackluster material isn’t getting her anywhere and considers quitting the game. Content to while away the hours with Nate, shopping at thrift stores and getting brunch, Margaret’s world is thrown for a loop when her young friend gets involved in his very first relationship.
The film lost steam when the focus shifted to Nate’s dealings with his clearly awful new boyfriend, whose rude behavior to Margaret (and terrible hipster haircut) is all but inexcusable. Tyler Ross is likeable as the inexperienced kid but his performance pales in comparison to Natalie West’s unique charms. Although her stand-up routines suffer from poor screenwriting (See also: Punchline) and it is a little hard to swallow when the film implies that she has “improved” as a comedian, West is so naturally funny that she somehow manages to pull it off. Nate & Margaret was an enjoyable film but I left the theater wondering how much more I would have liked a film called Margaret & Nate.