“Better Nate than Ever” is a musical comedy that portrays the Broadway journey of an ambitious teenager. Based on a book by Tim Federle, the film is a window into the minds of aspiring actors and how they pursue their passion, notwithstanding the countless discouragements that come their way. What makes the film unique is that it shows a middle schooler’s passion for classic theater in 2022 and how many kids relate to him but are embarrassed to accept it. Does the film execute this well? Let us find out!
‘Better Nate Than Ever’ Plot Summary
Nate Foster is a middle-schooler and an aspiring actor in Pittsburgh. Nate is very passionate about theater and aspires to be a successful actor. His friend Libby is also a theater enthusiast and is a partner in crime in his artistic endeavors. One day, Nate gets rejected from a school musical where he had been promised the lead role, which makes him disheartened. Trying to cheer him up, Libby informs Nate about the upcoming auditions for the “Lilo and Stitch” Broadway show.
Fortunately, his parents decide to leave the town for a weekend retreat, and his brother Anthony has a game plan. Nate takes this opportunity to flee to the Broadway audition and tells his parents that he will stay the weekend at Libby’s. After convincing his parents, Nate and Libby take a bus to New York. The two friends make it to the audition only to find a large queue of well-prepared kids who have come with parental guidance. They learn that kids without a parent or guardian are not allowed to audition for the play. Just then, Nate’s aunt, Heidi, shows up at the audition as their guardian.
Heidi is Nate’s maternal aunt, who has an embittered relationship with his mother. She, too, was a struggling actress and currently works odd jobs to earn a living in New York. Nate informs Heidi that he left home uninformed for the Broadway audition. When Heidi asks for his mother’s number, he hands over Libby’s instead. Nate tells Heidi that he needs to use the restroom and cleverly sneaks into the audition. Despite being intimidated by the competition, he gives his best in the audition. Thinking that the results may not be in their favor, Nate and Libby get on the next bus to Pittsburgh. Just when the two get on the bus, Nate receives a callback for the second round of his audition. Despite Libby’s attempts to convince him to come home, Nate decides that he must not let go of this opportunity and gets off the bus. After presenting his monologue, he passes through yet another round of auditions.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Better Nate Than Ever’ Ending Explained: Does Nate Ace His Final Audition?
After the second audition, Nate realizes that he has no place to abide in New York. He sings with some local street performers and earns a few bucks for himself. Taking Libby’s advice, Nate looks for Heidi at the museum where she is waitressing and crashes at her house for the night. He confesses that he has always been inspired by his aunt and wants to be like her! Touched by his passion for acting, Heidi encourages him to go to his next audition.
Meanwhile, Anthony finds out about Nate being away in New York. He takes Libby and makes it to Heidi’s house by morning. Anthony confronts his brother to come back home. Despite thinking that his brother is embarrassed by him, Nate escapes his sight and makes it to the theater. He goes into the third audition unprepared and gives a performance without being in his right senses. However, she was impressed by Nate’s passion. Anthony tells him that he does not embarrass him. From thereon, the lot returns to Pittsburgh.
Nate finds out that his street performance has become viral on Tiktok, and even his school bullies enjoy it. Suddenly, he is called to the principal’s office, where his parents are waiting. Nate’s mother informs him that he has been selected to play Stitch’s character in the Lilo and Stitch Broadway show! Libby, who has now started to gain an interest in being an agent, encourages Nate to seize the opportunity. Nate finds his luck on Broadway as his dreams finally come true! In the after scenes, “Better Nate Than Ever” entails how Nate and Libby become popular at their school after their Broadway success. Anthony’s relations with his brother improve, and they are saved from turning out like their mother and aunt. Owing to Nate’s popularity, Heidi gets selected as the lead in the play “Solitary Woman.” And as for Nate’s acting journey, things have only begun!
Many specifics in “Better Nate Than Ever” seem unnecessary and invaluable to its essence: the lucky rabbit foot, Nate’s dad not having a job, Anthony’s broken leg, the “tone” line repeatedly said by Libby, etc. Besides, many of the film’s story attributes are quite ambiguous. When Libby confesses her feelings to Nate, he replies, “I’m not like that.” While some might think of it as a hint at Nate’s sexuality, it can mean many things in the scene’s context. Likewise, the reason for Anthony’s turning down the picture of his athletics award is unclear. Many attributes in the film piqued interest but did not provide any satisfactory explanation. These include the relationships between Aunt Heidi and her sister, Anthony, and Nate, and even Libby and Nate to some extent.
Besides, it does not seem satisfactory that Nate sees Aunt Heidi as his hero, whereas he barely saw her growing up! Heidi’s footloose and individualistic personality transitioned into her motherly side in no time, which seemed abrupt. The story draws a connection to a rivalry that existed amidst Heidi, Sherrie, Nate and Anthony. However, it may go unnoticed by many viewers. It seems like a lot of scenes were edited out, where the story lost its essence. Even the film’s name looks like a stretched wordplay without any underlying depth!
Recommending “Better Nate Than Ever” will be entirely attributed to the splendid acting by Lisa Kudrow (as one can expect of her) and the precious expressions of Rueby Wood!
“Better Nate Than Ever” is a 2022 Musical Drama film directed by Tim Federle.