Wednesday, February 1

REVIEW: Albert Nobbs

(Out of 4 stars)

Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
1 hour 53 minutes
From Roadside Attractions

Glenn Close
Mia Wasikowska
Aaron Johnson
Janet McTeer
Pauline Collins
Brendan Gleeson
Brenda Fricker
Phyllida Law
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

A true art house film, Albert Nobbs will probably not attract a large audience.  For those who are completely enamored of Glenn Close and any film she may be in, then you will likely be taken in.  She herself has gone very public saying that this isn't just any role for her.  She's had a love affair with Albert Nobbs for many years, she had a romp with it as a play and has finally gotten it to the big screen and is, in fact, a co-producer.

It is 19th Century Ireland and for over 30 years she has been posing as a man while working as a servant in a large household.  Then events occur which shake her foundation.  That's about all you need to know.  Add the lure of Close to this paragraph and go buy your ticket.

I probaby would have passed on this film but was lured myself by Close's Oscar nomination.  And frankly I can understand why an actress would be attracted to such a role... playing a man, sans the glamour treatment, learning new ways to move and act, playing someone so different from yourself.  I think the actress did a good job with the role and arguably worthy of an Oscar nomination, certainly not a win.

For me the problem of the film, which many would call slow and a bit dull, is because Albert is a bit boring and a lot dull.  How does one channel such traits without totally turning on snoring in the audience?  It would be a lot easier to portray a maniacal killer since he is at least likely to be lively.  Albert/Close does little more than stare.  He talks to herself (somewhat to advance the plot) and that's about as exciting as he gets.

I found some interest in watching the machinations of someone leading a secret life and relived a little sadness observing the need to do that.  Albert's reason was because she couldn't find suitable work in those times and knew she'd have more success with a masquerade.  Unfortunately, it was true.  She did get a paycheck and was able to save money for a loftier goal, but at what price?  A life of hiding who you really are is not much of a life.

We have brush strokes of cross-dressing, lesbianism and having a child out of wedlock... all 19th Century style.  The relationships between upstairs and downstairs, the haves and the have-nots and the various shadings of living in depressing circumstances are all explored and handled well.

I never bought Close as a man.  If the character was supposed to have fooled those she lived and worked with, they must have been tippling too many of the spirits.  She did give good stare, but she did it too much.

Much better in this regard is Janet McTeer, as a cross-dressing house painter. I bought her as a man all the way.  I support her Oscar nod.

I was not aware of Aaron Johnson's work, but the Englishman is a delightful addition to the proceedings because his character was the lively one, a randy bad boy. 

NEXT POST:  Gregory Peck

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