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Nate and Margaret (Breaking Glass Pictures, NR)

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nate margaret sqThere’s about a million movies about the trials and tribulations of lovers, young and otherwise, but not many that take an honest look at friendship.

 

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Nathan Adloff’s Nate and Margaret, now available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, is the rare exception, and one that is definitely worth your time.

Nate (Tyler Ross) is a 19-year-old film student. Margaret (Natalie West) is a 52-year-old waitress and would-be standup comedian. They live in the same Chicago apartment building and have become best friends in an almost codependent sort of way—nothing sexual (it’s not a Harold and Maude remake, in other words), but in the kind of relationship where there’s an unstated belief that the other person will always be there for you. That’s a huge expectation to lay on anyone, and it’s even more of a strain when the parties involved are at such different places in their lives.

Nate is adorable and talented and has a gaggle of hipster friends, including the classic mean girl Darla (Gaby Hoffman) and the sexually aggressive James (Conor McCahill), who becomes Nate’s first boyfriend. If the little town where Nate grew up wasn’t welcoming of his sexual preference, he doesn’t appear too scarred by the experience. Margaret, on the other hand, seems to have come from a history of abuse (we learn very little about her, other than from the material she works into her standup routine) and doesn’t have a lot going for her: She seems confused and frightened by the world, and doesn’t seem to have any friends other than Nate, or any life outside of her job.

Nate and Margaret is much more Nate’s story than it is Margaret’s, although it does make some amends by the end of the film. It’s too bad, because West is such a talented actor (she played Crystal, Dan’s stepmother, on Roseanne, and has an active stage career in Chicago), but she does well with what she is given. It’s particularly enjoyable to see a good actor playing a bad actor, as in Margaret’s early standup routines. Ross is also very good as Nate—if Michael Cera could act, and got into a film with a halfway decent script, this is what the result might be. Together, they create a real feel of what a friendship feels like, when it’s going well, and when it’s not.

One bonus with Nate and Margaret is its skillful use of locations: You get a nice little tour of Chicago, shot on the RED camera by Brian Levin, along with your story. The DVD is positively crammed with extras, including four (!) commentary tracks, audition tapes for Ross and McCahill, a look behind the scenes, some deleted scenes and outtakes, a photo gallery, the trailer, and Adloff’s short film Untied Strangers. | Sarah Boslaugh

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