Out Now On-Demand
Glenn Close (Dangerous Liasons) dons a top hat in this drama about a woman posing as a male butler in 19th Century Ireland.
During an era where female independence was non-existent and discouraged, Albert Nobbs (Close) escapes a life of poverty and despair by disguising herself as a “himself.” However, she seeks to dismantle her 30-year façade after meeting a handsome painter. While trying to reconstruct an ordinary life, she acquires the company of a gorgeous young house maid (Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre), who has her own man-seeking agendas.
This is the third big-screen pairing of Glenn Close and director Rodrigo Garcia, the prior two being Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her and Nine Lives. Close, who also co-wrote the screenplay, originally played the role in a 1982 stage production.
Adaptation, Drama, Historical
Rating: M contains nudity and sex scenes
Glenn Close has been trying to get this on to the big screen for decades since playing the titular character on stage in 1982, and finally she’s managed to go full Tootsie as Albert Nobbs, a woman who cross-dresses to get ahead in life. That sounds a little more light-hearted than the film really is though, as it’s not set in late 20th Century Hollywood but grim 19th Century Ireland and Nobbs’ deception stems from a basic need to survive.
It’s easy to see why Close made such an effort to make this cinematic adaptation happen as it’s something of a dream part for an actor. She jumps into the role with gusto, delivering a believable performance as not only a woman masquerading publicly as a butler, but privately living in her own world that is a blend of trauma, fantasy and the constant threat of discovery. Close is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination for the part, but what’s likely to see her miss out on the night is the film’s overly theatrical nature. Albert Nobbs ends up being little more than a play on screen, unwilling to break out of this stylistic straitjacket and unable to depict its environment and events in a way that takes advantage of cinema’s creative potential.
What would have been a great play becomes a merely okay film in this instance, despite Albert Nobbs’ constant efforts to ensnare us emotionally. With the supporting cast reduced to one-dimensional roles, Close may stay in the spotlight throughout but sadly this one-woman show does not a good film make.
A.V. Club (USA)
Entertainment Weekly (USA)
Los Angeles Times
New York Post
New York Times
The Guardian (UK)
extract from theaterofthecommonman.com
Throughout the history of film the attributes of what makes an actress successful have gradually changed, there has been one constant however: Beauty. As far back as the pioneers of silent film beautiful woman have graced the silver screen. After all the beautiful actresses sell tickets don't they? Let's face it, men didn't flock in their millions to see Marilyn Munroe or Grace Kelly for their intellect, though if they had they may have learnt one or two things about the world. No, men watched these starlets to escape from reality; they didn't want to see a depiction of their wife on screen, they wanted a fantasy. This attitude is still very much the doctrine throughout the movie business, though the days of beauty before ability are slowly fading. Sadly, this will always will be part of the game - just look at Megan Fox (Transformers). For that reason Glenn Close is a rare commodity, she doesn't define Beauty in the traditional sense, so her rise as young actress must have been hard fought in an industry that is less than rational or forgiving even to those with her Talent.
To me Glenn Close has always had an underlying masculinity, a mannish quality to her presence and delivery; she has often played characters in positions of high authority. Her roles in The Paper as the despotic newspaper editor & the Vice President she played in Air Force One are generally (but not always) roles written for men. Evidently she has embraced this characteristic and written herself a seemingly perfect part, that of Albert Nobbs.
Albert Hobbs is a woman! Though, for the past 30 years she successfully pretended to be a man. Set in an exclusive hotel in 19th Century Ireland, Albert Nobbs is the story of the titular character's battle to maintain the secret of her true identity, and to keep her employment as a Hotel Servant to the rich & wealthy. Too late to revert back her gender, Albert seemingly traps herself in a world of her own creation, that is until she meets Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) a similarly afflicted woman who shows her the possibility of a different life and offers her an outlet for her dream of becoming a small shop owner.
I was conflicted in my opinion of the film. Glenn Close's portrayal of a man is faultless, she captures the stature and pitch of a an elderly butler to perfection. It should be noted she has been playing Albert Hobbs on stage since the early 80's, so she has had plenty of time to perfect it. The same cannot be said for Janet McTeer's depiction of Hubert Page - she is clearly a woman and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why the other characters couldn't see this and just out her. As strong as Glenn Close is an actress, she couldn't prop up an under-developed screenplay & generally poor casting. The plot isn't as intriguing as the characters, which naturally makes the film unbalanced. The supporting actors vary greatly in ability, Brendan Gleeson as the Hotel's doctor, Pauline Collins as Mrs Baker the hotel Mistress and Mia Wasikowska as Albert's love interest all provide strong performances but are let down by those they are playing off against. The redeeming factor for Albert Nobbs is that it's not a story you are likely to see often, men masquerading as women has been done to death. The inverse however is rare, only in the last 10 years is it becoming more palatable to the cinema going public.
Not much chop..
Struggle to rate this one. Possibly to most wasteful couple of hours I've spent recently.
Poor old Glenn Close!
Hard luck to Glenn Close in a year that also sees Meryl Streep as Thatcher. Albert Nobbs is surely a story that bears telling. Homosexuality was just as prevalent then as now and what the heck did people do? Evidently lesbians regularly lived as men and married women who often claimed they never knew rather than incriminate themselves. Between Glenn Close's questionable accent and the poor editing this film never quite hits it's mark.
The irish actors, however, do a sterling job. Wait for the DVD.