Last week saw the release of Gimme the Loot, the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner by Adam Leon, which sees two graffiti artists seek revenge after their replica of the…
Albert Nobbs is a butler and waiter in an upscale hotel in Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the 19th century. He dreams of saving all his shillings to one day open up a tobacco shop and of having a wife who can work the front counter for him. After all his years of work as a servant he is less than six months away from making his dream a reality. There is only one catch””Albert Nobbs is a woman.
Glenn Close plays the shy and reserved butler Albert Nobbs hiding her true identity to the world for decades. Nobbs’ world starts to change when she meets an androgynous house painter visiting the hotel. The painter discovers her secret, and in-turn has a secret of his own as well. Nobbs begins to reflect on her life, thinking that if she could find the right woman, she could marry as a man in secret. Nobbs sets her sights on a young and a beautiful maid named Helen (Mia Wasikowska) at the hotel. What complicates things even further that Helen has set her sights on the new young handyman (Aaron Johnson). The handyman has dreams of moving to America and instructs Helen to let Albert Nobbs court her so they can make some money for their boat fare to the new world.
Albert Nobbs is by no stretch the only person with secrets at the hotel. The hotel doctor is sleeping with one of the maids, a few of them are alcoholics, a un-wed maid is expecting a child. There are even glimpses of the hotel guests’ secrets. Showing these aspects of people’s private lives helps answer of the question, “How could Nobbs get away with hiding her gender?” The answer is simply this: if everyone else has something to hide, they are not going to be looking very hard at what is really going on around them.
There are some films that define an actor’s career that are benchmarks that are cited as a defining moment in their celebrated careers. George C. Scott in Patton, Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man are just a few. Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs will likely be her most celebrated and admired performance of her career. So it can be said without much hesitation that this film will be one of the most talked about in the upcoming awards season with much emphasis on Glenn Close’s magnificent performance. What makes the performance so brilliant isn’t the fact that Close can pretend to be a man but she can convincingly play a woman trying to be a man. When things are calm and in control Nobbs has no problem staying in character, but when tensions are risen we see slight fluctuations in Nobbs voice and mannerism that revert back to being a woman in these brief moments. It’s these subtle moments that make’s Close’s performance so remarkable.
As much as the film is director Rodrigo Garcia’s film, it is equally as much Close’s film. She has co-written the screenplay and co-produced the film and even starred in an off-Broadway play of the story. The film is based on the novella, The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs by George Moore, and Glenn Close worked on the script with Booker Prize”“winning author John Banville.
The film is finely crafted in its direction as well and is a breakthrough film in the career of Rodrigo Garcia. Sometimes films at TIFF don’t live up to its buzz but this case Albert Nobbs is your man.