Review: Albert Nobbs
PLOT: Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) has a secret. For years, Nobbs has been working at a hotel in Dublin, as the resident butler. Unbeknownst to the staff, Nobbs- a confirmed bachelor is not in fact the comely, middle-aged man they think he is. Rather, Nobbs is a woman in disguise- trying to build a small nest-egg that will support her in twilight years.
REVIEW: ALBERT NOBBS is really one of those movies where, as a whole, is probably nothing special, but features a performance (or in this case two) that’s so dynamic that it immediately pushes the film up a couple of notches- making it a must see for the acting alone. Long a passion project of Close’s, she tackles a very difficult role, allowing her to pass as a middle-aged Irishman in early twentieth century Dublin.
Of course, this was a tough time for anyone to find a job, much less a middle-aged woman, so Nobbs’ reasons for posing as a man are perfectly understandable. In an effort to pass as the male Albert, Close is tightly corseted, with no makeup, and closely cropped hair. In the role, not only does Close have to lower her voice a few octaves to make for a believable man, but the very American Close also has to attempt an Irish accent- which is pitch-perfect to my ears.
All in all, ALBERT NOBBS is a triumph for Close, making her nomination as Best Actress well-deserved. But wouldn’t you know it- Close all but gets the film stolen right out from under her by Janet McTeer, as another woman posing as a man, who eventually learns Albert’s secret. Unlike Albert, she’s been living as a man for so long, that almost any vestige of her femininity is gone- to the extent that she’s even taken a wife, just to make the deception even more believable, which inspires Albert to attempt the same thing with the hotel’s fragile maid, Helen (Mia Wasikowska) - who’s in an abusive relationship with the boiler-keeper (KICK-ASS’ Aaron Johnson). McTeer is really incredible as the resourceful Hubert Page, and it’s the kind of performance that will inevitably leave audiences wanting more. Every time she’s off-screen, you’ll be waiting for her to show up again. If McTeer doesn’t take home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, there’s something seriously wrong with the Academy.
As for the rest of the film, it’s solid- although probably not up to the standards of something similar like DOWNTON ABBEY. It’s somewhat predictable, although despite the subject matter, filmed in a way that keeps it from being as downbeat as it could have been. Director Rodrigo Garcia, who directed Close in NINE LIVES, and last directed the excellent MOTHER & CHILD, has a good handle on the material and does a commendable job with it. In addition to Close and McTeer, the rest of the cast is excellent, including Wasikowska (I’m getting used to seeing her in period films), Johnson, the always reliable Brendan Gleeson (as the hotel’s alcoholic doctor), and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a dissolute, drunken wastrel- who’s taken up in the hotel with his hell-raising companion.
Overall, ALBERT NOBBS isn’t an excellent film, but it’s a good one- and does contain two incredible Awards-level performances. McTeer really needs to get the nod from the Academy for this one, as she’s head and shoulders above everyone else nominated in that category (except maybe Octavia Spenser). All in all, a film well-worth seeing.