Friday, December 30, 2011
Written by Glenn Close and John Banville
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Starring Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer and Aaron Johnson
Dr. Hollaran: We are both disguised as ourselves.
Glenn Close first played the titular role of ALBERT NOBBS on stage nearly thirty years ago. She defined the role for the stage and has been trying to get the play, based on a short story, made into a film ever since. Her aspirations have finally been realized, resulting in what may be one of the finest turns this 5-time Oscar nominated actress has ever given. As Nobbs, she shines so brightly on screen by blending so perfectly into the background and going with as little notice as possible. And though her character is inherently humble, she is simply unforgettable.
At the turn of the 19th century, Albert Nobbs is going on thirty years or so as a servant in a popular British hotel. That’s three decades of knowing which guest prefers which flowers, when each guest takes their tea and keeping a rather significant secret. Albert is not the man he portends to be; Albert is actually a woman. Every day, she puts on her armour, including some rather constrictive binding to hide her chest, and faces the world in character. She fools everyone around her and has been doing such a good job at it for such a long time that she has very little idea of who the woman she used to be still is. Her finely woven web begins to unravel though when she meets another lady disguised as a man to get work (Janet McTeer, in an incredibly ballsy performance). Seeing her lead both a public and private life as a man shows her how her life of servitude has forced her to miss out on some of the finer things she never dreamed she could have.
ALBERT NOBBS deals with issues of identity and class with delicate care and all their due and it does so with a lighter than expected tone. The film, under the direction of Rodrigo Garcia (MOTHER AND CHILD), is unexpectedly amusing, deeply touching and an incredibly revealing character study. And despite the impressive efforts from the entire ensemble, including the young and talented Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson, this is Close’s picture. It may have taken ALBERT NOBBS thirty years to reach the screen but that just may have been the time it needed to become this good.