DIR: Rodrigo García • WRI: Glenn Close, John Banville, Gabriella Prekop • PRO: Glenn Close, Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn, Alan Moloney • DOP: Michael McDonough • ED: Steven Weisberg • DES: Patrizia von Brandenstein • Cast: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Brendan Gleeson
Albert Nobbs takes place in 19th century Ireland. The titular character, played by Glenn Close, is working in an upscale hotel in Dublin as a butler. Albert lives a solitary life, scrimping and saving with the hopes of opening a business and being completely independent. The only issue is that Albert Nobbs is actually a woman. Living a solitary life, she hides herself away and rarely interacts with the other waiting staff of the hotel. That is until the manager / owner of the hotel, played by Pauline Collins, forces her to share a room with an unassuming painter by the name of Hubert Page (Janet McAteer). The two form an unusual friendship that gives the film an emotional core that seems genuine and believable.
Although the film has an interesting subject matter and the plot is detailed, the script and direction is thoroughly lacking. Rodrigo Garcia’s camerwork, lighting and attention to detail throughout the film is decent, however the pacing of the film is such that it feels completely laboured. While the story may not necessarily benefit from faster dialogue, Albert Nobbs suffers in the fact that nothing actually happens throughout the story up until towards the end. The film simply ambles along at a snail’s pace and then, very suddenly, wraps itself up with an unsatisfying end. The supporting cast, made up of Brendan Gleeson, Mia Wasikowksa and Aaron Johnson, are simply bystanders throughout the story. The subplot of the relationship between Wasikowska and Johnson is something of an after-thought. Although it runs concurrent to the main plot, it feels like it could have been easily left out or paired down into a few scenes instead of taking up half the film. As well, Johnson’s performance is particularly poor and his butchering of the Irish accent is distracting throughout the film. It feels as though he was miscast for the role as it calls for a tougher and more rugged persona than he can muster.
The relationship between Glenn Close and Janet McAteer’s characters is endearing and both give Oscar®-worthy performances. It’s telling that this was a labour of love for Glenn Close as she does disappear fully into the role and is completely unrecognisable in her role as the buttoned-down servant of the house. She embodies the character with genuine heart and feeling and really sells the idea of someone living a lie in order to simply survive in the world. The character gives herself a brief moment of freedom in a truly heart-breaking scene that validates why only Glenn Close could have done this role. Albert Nobbs is a disappointing film, unfortunately. Rodrgio Garcia’s direction and lack of pacing makes the film suffer for it. Although the dialogue is sparse, the script needed more fleshing out of other characters and the plot itself. Where the film could have featured comedic undertones, it instead features cliched sentimentality and mawkishness.
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