Friday, January 6, 2012

Albert Nobbs

In Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close plays a woman, who dresses like a man, who saves every penny she earns in hopes of opening a cigar shop with a woman 40 years her junior.  Delusions of grandeur, perhaps, but the basis for a compelling film, nonetheless. But while this labor of love is well intentioned, its delivery is dull, mechanic, and, at times, completely phoned in.

Albert Nobbs works as the head butler for a fancy Irish hotel, circa the 19th century.  She tends to the snobby guests without a hint of indignation.  When her co-workers bitch and moan about the guests in private, Albert carries about her business dutifully, silently tidying up whatever needs tidying. At night, she stores her wages in the floorboards of her room. She sleeps, wakes up, dresses into a man, and start the process all over.

Soon enough (or rather, not soon enough), Albert is introduced to two people who throw a mix into her routine life. Hubert, a local painter, is the first to discover Albert's secret (mostly because she too conceals her real sexuality), while Helen, a young maid at the hotel, proves to be the awe of Albert’s world.

Now, forgive my repetitiveness, but like so many other films from 2011, Albert Nobbs is a film suited with strong material and even stronger performances, but its execution is flawed beyond belief.

As directed by Rodrigo GarcĂ­a (who made the very haunting, very miraculous Nine Lives), Albert Nobbs is, by and large, a total bore. My plot description is more accurate then you may hope, as nothing really happens in the movie. There’s cleaning, there’s hiding, there’s whispering and yelling. Minor subplots are introduced then abandoned, interesting characters are ignored, and so on. In Albert Nobbs, we have yet another less than stellar film backboned with remarkable performances.
Albert Nobbs has been a passion project of Glenn Close’s since she’s been acting in movies. She first played the role on stage in 1982 and has been fighting to get it on screen ever since. To help, she even co-wrote the film’s screenplay, which unfortunately doesn't add much to the overall film. But as Albert, Close is perfect. She embodies a lost, haunted woman with sorrowful passion. Likewise Janet McTeer, who plays Hebert as a steadfast brute, far beyond any suffering she may have endured in the past.

Both deliver some of the best performances of their careers, and they certainly deserve the Oscar nominations that will soon be coming their way. Mia Wasikowska also deserves special mention – as Helen, she proves yet again that she is one of the best young actors out there.

Even though the film picks up in its final act, delivering a pleasing finale that I wasn’t expecting, the movie as a whole isn’t nearly worthy of the performances in it. C-


  1. I wasn't so enamoured with Close, but I did think the film improved greatly whenever Janet McTeer was on screen. She was fantastic. The whole film is preposterous (it felt like a poor attempt at pretending to be a man - that everyone actually bought, and dismissed Albert as being peculiar). But in the audience, you can't shake the thought that it is Glenn Close, and it is obviously a woman. I don't think it delved into Albert's character much at all - not really justifying why he needed a wife to run a tobbacco store - and why he remains a man (habit, necessity, and fear?). I also thought that the Wasikowska/Johnson subplot served very little purpose, and took up about half of the runtime. Also, that breakdown scene in the park made me laugh - not the intention, I assume. Still, it was a more bearable experience than The Iron Lady, and I think it fell short of satisfying, but not a bad film. Grade: C (2 1/2 stars).

    I didn't write a review on this, because I really felt no urge to discuss it. One of those middling, and forgettable experiences that is hard to find the motivation to write about. Nice write-up, though.

  2. @Andy Buckle Yeah man I feel you, that's how I am about a lot of movies, Margin Call being the most recent.

    But hey, you're always welcome to share your thoughts here! I pretty much agree with everything you said. Ask me in 2 weeks and I'll probably give it a D. Oh well.

  3. Gotta be honest, I have no great desire to see this at all, and probably won't. At least when Iron Lady comes out I get to spew 30 years of hatred onto the site.

  4. I heard a lot of hype about this film. I like Glenn Close but it seems like one of those films where she really tries to go for that Oscar. I really don't like Oscar-bait roles though I'm sure Close does a good job. I find it unfair to those who really put an effort into a performance w/o even thinking about accolades.

  5. I thought McTeer was even better than Close here. I liked the beginning of the movie - it reminded me of "Downton Abby", with all the help in the house and their conversations in the kitchen. I thought the movie was a bit too messy and too much focus went to Helen and her issues with her boyfriend. I agree it was quite boring and not worthy of the performances.

  6. This films just looks so ... bland.

    I have absolutely no interest in it - and thanks for the review to reassure my thoughts.

  7. @Colin Ha, nice. Unless you're obsessed with seeing every Oscar-nominated performance every year (like I am), you can definitely skip Albert Nobbs

  8. @thevoid99 I'm no fan of Oscar-bait performances either, but to Close's credit, I think this is more of an honest passion project for her. Regardless, it ain't worthy of your time.

  9. @Sati. Oh McTeer was definitely very good; her confidence was quite amusing. She made the movie (somewhat) lively. If only she was in it more...