GLENN CLOSE MIA WASIKOWSKA JANET MCTEER AARON JOHNSON BRENDEN GLEESON
Five time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) is playing a man in her new film that she has been working on for over five years. Albert Nobbs has been getting Oscar buzz since it premiered early this year at film festivals. Close could easily be categorized as one of the prestigious actors who have never won and, with a role as unique and dynamic as Albert Nobbs, it seemed like this would be an easy Oscar. The film is pretty good, but the performance is subtle and I don’t think Close will make it all the way to the podium, even though she has a producing and screenwriting credit in this personal project.
Albert Nobbs (Close) is a middle aged, soft spoken man working as a waiter in a hotel in Dublin. Beloved by the rest of the staff, Nobbs keeps to himself, saving all of his earnings under the floorboard. But Nobbs has a huge secret underneath his clothes. When a painter named Hubert (McTeer) comes to the hotel, he is sent to stay with Nobbs in his quarters. Terrified of being exposed, Nobbs finds an unlikely friend in the equally deceptive Hubert. Saving up money to open a smoke shop, Nobbs decides to look for a wife and chooses the youngest waitress, Helen (Wasikowska), who has her own infatuation with the new boiler apprentice (Johnson).
It isn’t that subtle performances never win Oscars, but Close’s performance here is unusual, although at the same time, endearing. Close will get nominated, but the film won’t be widely seen. It’s a sad little movie that is set in the early 1900’s in the cold of winter. The director, Rodrigo Garcia, who did Mother & Child last year, certainly knows how to tackle controversial subject matter. Close is surrounded by such terrific supporting actors; Gleeson (Harry Potter), Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) and Johnson (Nowhere Boy) are all really great in their drastically different roles. It's Oscar nominee McTeer who stands out the most, almost more so than Close. McTeer should be looking at a supporting actress nomination.
I was surprised at how overtly sexual the film was with dialogue, innuendo and, obviously, the subject matter. It's unique seeing this type of subject matter nestled in the time frame. “Life without decency is unbearable”, Nobbs says at one point about some of the behaviors she witnesses. The first time I feel empathy for Nobbs is in the chocolate shop, because of the behavior, how Helen is using him to get what she wants. As far as subject matter goes, there is so much here that should appeal to Oscar voters. However, the two main performances will likely be the only things remembered. Albert Nobbs just leaves you with a sad feeling, the kind of feeling you have when you walk out of a nursing home.
Final Thought – Close & McTeer give Oscar attentive performances.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
In many respects, this film has the look and feel of a period piece (production design by Patrizia von Brandenstein; set decoration by Jenny Oman; music by
Brian Byrne; costumes by Pierre-Yves Gayraud; lighting, dialog), but is out of the mainstream in terms of the story. It may be a little shocking for some, and will make many uncomfortable. But I very much liked the treatment of sexual identity and gender roles, and an account of how women during that period in time had to come up with desperate solutions in order to survive on their own, regardless of how they came to be on their own. In this case, both Albert (played by Glenn Close) and Hubert (played by Janet McTeer) are fleeing from abusive situations. Interestingly—in light of contemporary ethos—the primary issue in the film is not about wanting a lesbian lifestyle, but about survival. In Hubert and Polly’s relationship, attraction is to the person, seemingly without regard to gender, which was incidental. And that may have been the major aim of the story—to make the point that individuals should be free to team up as marital partners, regardless of their sex.
The film is based on a short story by a 19th century Irish writer, George Moore, titled The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs. Glenn Close, one of the writers of the screenplay, starred in a New York production in 1982, and for years afterwards, advocated for a film version. Director and cast changes necessarily occurred a number of times in the planning stages, but Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child, Nine Lives) was a wise final choice for director of this version.
All of the actors, and especially Close and McTeer, are outstanding, and Mia Wasikowska, Berndan Gleeson, and Pauline Collins are very skillful in their roles. eThe pace of the movie is a bit slow at times, although the music often fills in nicely to keep the viewer engaged.