Albert Nobbs (Review)

(12/23/11; Period Drama)
Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Janet McTeer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson, Maria Doyle Kenned
SCR: Glenn Close, John Banville; based on “The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs” by George Moore
DIR: Rodrigo García
MPAA: Rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language.
1 hour 53 mins

In 19th century Dublin, Albert Nobbs (Close) is a woman comfortably living and working as a butler in a hotel. A traumatic incident thirty years earlier forced her into a new identity, and as such, she has found a life that works for her.

One day, she is told she must share her room (and bed) with Hubert Page (McTeer), a strapping lad. Turns out Mr. Page is also a woman in disguise, but for her own reasons.

What follows is a measured and, at times, interesting character study. By measured, I mean tedious. Usually, I’m in favor of the slow-and-steady approach when it comes to building complete characters and creating a world but this movie is bound to test the patience of just about any audience.

The good news: Close and McTeer, both nominated for Oscars, are sensational. Close doesn’t resemble a man (so much as an alien), but her ability to inhabit the skin of a person who can’t feel comfortable in either gender is both affecting and uncomfortable to watch. McTeer steals every scene with swagger and grace. The supporting roles, all played capably by Meyers, Gleeson and Wasikowska, all seem to exist to nudge the threadbare story along to its dour conclusion.

Gender politics are always interesting, especially as glimpsed through a 19th century filter, and it’s during the second half that the movie finally comes alive. But it’s hard to invest, despite the care that went into this film.

Close played the role of Albert on stage and tried for three decades to get this film made. She co-wrote the screenplay, produced the film and wrote an original song. I can only hope that she is happy with the results. (Roadside Attractions)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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