Susan Granger's review of 'Albert Nobbs'
Published 1:25 pm, Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Glenn Close delivers a splendid performance in this cinematic adaptation of a short story by Irish novelist George Moore. Set in 19th century Dublin, the heartbreaking Victorian drama chronicles the courage of woman who - for 30 years - took the identity of a man in order to gain respectable work at Morrison's, an opulent, yet intimate hotel.
Shy Albert Nobbs (Close) is a butler, quiet and attentive to the needs of the elegant, privileged guests (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Brendan Gleeson). A proper servant, Nobbs is always unobtrusive and impeccably attired, living in a solitary upstairs room, where he secretly stashes his earnings under the floorboards. His dream is to save enough money to buy a tobacco shop.
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But one night, the proprietress, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), informs Nobbs that he will have to share his tiny room - and bed -- with a laconic, chain-smoking housepainter, Hubert Page, who will be working at the hotel. Before the night is over, Nobbs is stunned to discover that Page (Janet McTeer) is not only a woman-disguised-as-a-man but that he/she is also living with a woman (Bronaugh Gallagher) to whom he/she is, ostensibly, married.
Back in 1982, Close won an Obie for portraying Nobbs in Simone Benmussa's off-Broadway stage production and she co-wrote the movie script with Gabriella Prekop and John Banville. This has been Close's passionate project for 29 years, which is why she entrusted helming to femme-centric Colombian Rodrigo Garcia (son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez), who previously directed her in "Nine Lives" (2005) and "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her" (2000).
Problem is: it's far too difficult to believe that either Glenn Close or Janet McTeer could pass as men for more than a cursory glance.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Albert Nobbs" is a subtle, sensitive 6, creating a fascinating, if far-fetched façade.