In Albert Nobbs Glenn Close pulls off a character and leads a story that few actresses could manage, and tells the tale of a woman that poses as a man in order to sidestep the oppressions of the opposite sex. The problem comes in the form of predictable storytelling that few will care about and even fewer will see.
The story is set in Ireland in the 19th Century. We see Albert preparing for the business of the day and are put into the world that he lives in. It is a world of tedious bosses, arrogant guests and promiscuous maids. The strongest aspect of the film and the thing that will get you through the two-hour running time is the cast. Mia Wasikowska plays Helen Dawes, a young maid who desperately wants to quit her job. She meets a young man, Joe, played by Aaron Johnson. Joe and Helen hit it off and the two plan a life for themselves in America and as the story progresses, we find out that Nobbs is saving money to open a tobacco shop and soon begins to court Helen in order for her to marry him.
I know what you are thinking, however, the idea comes from a chance meeting with Mr. Page, played by Janet McTeer, who just happens to be in the same boat as Nobbs, a woman pretending to be a man. The problem is the subplots have little conflict or influence on the main plot, and much of the film drags because of it.
The hype surrounding Glenn Close’s turn as Albert Nobbs is deserved. I don’t think there is another actress that could make the character as believable as Close did. And it’s not just hair and make-up, its the understated qualities of the performance that make it the Oscar nominated performance everyone is saying it is. Will Close score an Oscar nom? Almost certainly. Will she win? That remains to be seen.
All in all, the movie’s viewership hinges on the Nobb’s character and Close gives a performance that gets us to the end credits. Wasikowska and Johnson are fine in their respective roles and Brendan Gleeson is thrown into the mix for some light dramatic irony, however, this is the Glenn Close show by far. Director Rodrigo Garcia doesn’t do much with the material outside of telling the supporting cast how to make Close look better, and that’s a shame, because the film could have been so much more than it is.
In the end Albert Nobbs is a film that doesn’t do much more than show us how great of actress Glenn Close is, and leaves much to be desired.