ALBERT NOBBS Review

I have always been aware of Glenn Close, it is just with my generation she has never been the movie star that she was just before my time. I wasn't born yet or wasn't old enough to appreciate her work when she was in her prime and as silly as this may sound, where my mind goes to when I think of Glenn Close is in fact Cruella DeVil. When I saw her in the live action version of "101 Dalmations" when I was nine years-old she was great. I could have imagined no better incarnation of the classic Disney villain, but I still had no idea who Glenn Close was. Since then, her major influence on the Hollywood scene has been the TV show "Damages". Since, I have of course seen more of her work now, whether it be "Fatal Attraction", "Dangerous Liasons" or "Air Force One" still, I haven't felt like I really got to know Glenn Close until watching her latest, passion project "Albert Nobbs". The bad thing is, that as much as this premise promises to be engaging, interesting and certainly thought provoking, it turns out to be a rather dull experience. This is not by the simple fact it is set in 19th Century Ireland either; I love the time period, the way of life and there is a strong supporting cast here that should lavish our main character with layers of interesting places to go. That is the problem though, much like Nobbs him/herself the film feels full of dreams and aspirations that never actually come to fruition.

Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) works as a butler while
serving Mr. Holloran (Brendan Gleeson) a drink. 
If you haven't heard of the film or are unsure what the story is, it gives a glimpse into the life of a woman who has concealed her gender for more than thirty years. She has worked as a butler of sorts at a Dublin hotel for the upper class. She has concealed her true identity for so long though she has made and settled herself in her own trappings. The film picks up when Albert is suddenly confronted with dilemmas to the lifestyle she has carried on for so long and her dedication to the role is challenged by the arrival of a painter who turns out to understand Albert better than anyone could have imagined. This introduces us to Hubert as played by Janet McTeer, who is truly one of the more moving aspects in the film. There is an odd side story that begins to play into the main plot of the film that has Albert attempting to help a pretty hotel maid named Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Albert seeing what Hubert has done to make a happy existence out of a similar situation allows Albert hope that she too may have that same kind of companionship. There is also the fact that Albert has been saving her money for years in order to begin her own business but as Nobbs tries to swoon Helen it is well known by the rest of the staff that Helen has already taken up with the hotel's new handyman Joe (Aaron Johnson). Joe likes the idea of taking advantage of weird and meek little Albert's generosity but Helen finds it morally incomprehensible the more Joe tries to take. With all of this going on, and a bad plague of the fever adding extra stress this sounds like a rather relentless drama filled with plenty of things to keep it busy when in reality it transfers to the screen in a slow paced and devastating manner.

Hubert (Janet McTeer) is just as battered a soul as our
central character Albert, but more interesting...
While this summary may allow someone to see where this could be extremely interesting as a film to watch play out it instead doesn't offer enough insight into the complex world of Albert as I wanted. I was eager to see the film as I thought it sounded like an interesting and somewhat original take on a psychological state of mind. This has always been a source of much interest for me and to see such an odd predicament as a woman pretending for so long to conceal what she really was in a time when the advantages of such a trick were clearly evident is all the more reason to understand her reasoning but clearly there are more deep seeded issues going on. The main problem with Close's production though is the fact her title character is too reclusive that even we as an audience never feel we get to know Albert in a personal way. We are made to feel like the rest of the staff at hotel who only know Albert from a distance. They are somewhat befuddled by the recluse that never exposes himself enough to either become vulnerable or a part of their small community. While Close is clearly dedicated to the role and this is a project close to her heart as she also co-wrote the screenplay, wrote an original song for the film and produced it, still, the character she inhabits is not a central focus. Instead, Nobbs should be a supporting player in the tale of Hubert. With Janet McTeer, she embodies the painter with a real sense of who she is in a world confused. While Albert is trying to figure out his role in the world Hubert is already living it. There collision with one another is the heart of the film no doubt, it just seemed the perspective was off.

Albert Nobbs admires young Helen (MiaWasikowska)
as they walk out together.
"Albert Nobbs" is one of those pieces of work that is, from its conceptualization as a motion picture, set up to be an awards contender. Surely Close and McTeer will receive nominations for their respective work, but if a film as a whole is not as interesting or in Nobbs' case, well played, does it merit the aspired awards praise? It's not that I am coming down on "Albert Nobbs" as it is not a bad film, but for all the award seeking films coming out at this time of year this certainly feels like the one with bigger aspirations than its actual context could support. I am usually a movie-goer who will see any film that looks to be a contender come awards season, but I wanted to see "Albert Nobbs" purely out of the interest in the story it was telling. Sadly, it didn't engage me as I expected and even with supporting players like the ever promising Aaron Johnson and Mia Wasikowska who seem wise beyond their years as far as interest in roles go can't do enough with their ill fated storyline to add real spice to the films dull palette. Even the always entertaining Brendan Gleeson and a small cameo by Jonathan Rhys Myers can't up the fun factor here as Nobbs is just not enough of a presence to carry the full weight of our interests for two hours. I admire Close for her love of the project but this won't change how I think of her. When I hear her name I'll still think of Cruella rather than quiet ole Albert.