In Better Nate Than Ever a gay teen auditions for a Broadway musical. Writer/Director Tim Federle translates his 2013 novel to the screen with Nate’s queerness intact. The tradeoff involves sanding away every rough edge. Rueby Wood’s Nate is talented but unmemorable. He lacks the flaws that made Jamie New and Billy Elliot stand out.
The same is true of the supporting cast. Nate’s sensible friend, frazzled parents and cruel brother (a miscast Joshua Bassett) are harmless sitcom types. The one standout is Lisa Kudrow. She underplays Nate’s aunt Heidi, a struggling actress who toils as a cater waiter. Heidi knows the cost of chasing dreams and fears for her nephew. Their conversations give the film a heart.
I’m not the target audience for this film. That would be the new generation of theater kids. I hope this work makes them feel seen. I also hope they seek media that isn’t censored by corporate committee. Nate’s “different,” “like that,” and “knows the lyrics to Pippin.” If they want to hear a Disney teen say “gay” they’ll have to watch Andi Mack, Diary of a Future President or Federle’s High School Musical – The Series.
Reviews for Better Nate Than Ever have been positive. I think my expectations were just too high. What did you think of the film? You can find more of my reviews on The Avocado, Letterboxd and Serializd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.