Film Review: Glenn Close, Janet McTeer in Melancholy ‘Albert Nobbs’

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Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – People who put themselves in boxes often go through their entire lives without meeting anyone who show them what it’s like on the outside. There’s every possibility that the tragically confined title character in “Albert Nobbs” would have remained in her box till her death if not for a chance encounter with someone who shows her that there is another way. The sad drama that follows charts her attempt to break free and realization that it may have come too late.

Albert Nobb’s (Glenn Close) confinement is one in which she has to hide her own gender and pretend to be a man in order to get work in a turn of the century Dublin hotel. It does not seem like she chose to disguise herself as a man out of sincere gender confusion although she has certainly developed some by living her public life as a man for years out of sheer need for employment and a roof over her head. She works as a butler in a 19th century Dublin hotel where she is admired but relatively ignored. She is a gentle, quiet “man,” the kind who gets the job done but fades relatively into the background. Most people who stay at the hotel probably never even notice him. Imagine a life in which your disguise doesn’t even merit attention.

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There’s a deep, deep well of sadness in Albert’s eyes (and it’s the ability to convey that life-long melancholy that has earned Glenn Close critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination). We’ve seen stories before of people who choose a gender other than the one which they were born with but it is typically portrayed as a choice of individualism. “Albert Nobbs” is the opposite story – it’s a woman who hides herself to be a part of the crowd instead of an individual. Until someone shows her there might be more to life.

That someone is Hubert Page (Oscar nominee Janet McTeer), someone living life as a man who is clearly a woman. Some have complained that McTeer is too obviously a woman for the part to work, to which I say two things: One, you must remember that you are looking through modern eyes; Two, it doesn’t matter. Page is supposed to be “out there,” an example of a happy life that Albert wants, where it’s unimportant that she’s a woman living life as a man. She sees Hubert happy with a wife (a stellar small turn by Bronagh Gallagher) and realizes that she has placed limitations on her happiness that didn’t necessarily need to be there.

“Albert Nobbs” stars Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska, and Aaron Johnson. It was directed by Rodrigo Garcia. It opens in Chicago on January 27th, 2012.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Albert Nobbs” review.

Albert Nobbs
Albert Nobbs
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

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