Winner of the best feature film award at the 2012 Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, “Nate & Margaret” is the most appealing friendship comedy I've seen in quite some time. It marks a triumphant return to screen acting for Natalie West, best known for her role on the late '80s / early '90s sitcom “Roseanne”. As the unlucky-in-love single mom Crystal, West was alternately hilarious and heartbreaking on a TV show that was famous for its unusually sympathetic portraits of working class women. The director of “Nate & Margaret”, Nathan Adloff, has said he and his co-writer, Justin D.M. Palmer, wrote the character of Margaret expressly for West. She could be playing an older version of her sitcom character, as Margaret, an aspiring comedian, uses her disastrous relationships with men as material for her stand-up routine. The fifty-something spinster has formed a close bond with a gay college student named Nate (Tyler Ross), who lives next door and is a good 33 years younger than she is. As far-fetched as this friendship might seem, it isn't hard to imagine how it came about; Margaret has pretty much given up on men, while Nate isn't quite ready to start dating them. Until he is, which brings James (Conor McCahill) into the picture, and what had previously been a cloudless platonic relationship between Nate and Margaret starts to see some friction. Ross has the looks and charisma to be the next big thing, and McCahill is often very funny, even though the screenwriters don't do him any favors when, in the film's weakest plot contrivance, they have James suddenly turn into the boyfriend from hell. Gaby Hoffmann (she played Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan's little girl in “Field of Dreams”) steals the few scenes she's in as the girl who throws the party where Nate and James meet. But West is the main attraction. As the more vulnerable half of this unlikely pair, she makes Margaret's feelings incredibly poignant. In the intervening years between “Roseanne” and “Nate & Margaret”, she hasn't lost an ounce of her talent for making us laugh and cry.

“Nate & Margaret” is now available to watch instantly on Netflix.