A sad film about a sad woman who pays multiple prices—including, eventually, the ultimate price—for daring to pursue her dream…so sums up Rodrigo García’s Albert Nobbs. And in that description lays the film’s primary disappointment.
Albert Nobbs stars Glenn Close as the titular character, a woman who has spent decades masquerading as a man to work as a waiter in a posh Dublin hotel. Going into Albert Nobbs, it is not as if one expects an uplifting film. But depressing movies with pained heroes are one thing. To be fair, the film is well-written, but what is frustrating about Albert Nobbs is seeing an already pained person pay such a high cost for daring to dream and make her life better. What sort of theme is punishment for attempts at improvement? Hit the jump for our Blu-ray review of Albert Nobbs.
Albert’s identity is finally uncovered by house painter, Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) when Albert is forced by the hotel owner to share her room with Hubert. Albert begs Hubert to keep her secret; Hubert in turn reveals that he, too, is a woman, married to another woman. Albert becomes fascinated with how Hubert has made this world work and found happiness. With Hubert as an example, Albert pursues one of the maids, Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska) romantically. Under the influence of her boyfriend, Joe Mackins (Aaron Johnson), Helen uses Albert’s advances for her and Joe’s personal gain. Eventually Helen becomes pregnant by Joe, who freaks out. In the midst of their fight, Albert tries to come to Helen’s rescue but suffers a blow to his head that kills him.
There is much to like about Albert Nobbs, such as the production design, costumes and make-up…and especially the acting. Glenn Close is brilliant, and the other actors deserve high marks as well. In any other year Close would easily have won Best Actress save for Meryl Streep’s turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. An example sums up Close’s performance best. In one scene, Albert and Hubert don dresses and venture out into the world, the first time for Albert wearing a dress since she was a young girl. So completely has Close embodied her role as a man that it feels in that scene as if she is a man in drag, not a woman being a woman. Amazing work.
This Blu-ray looks great and sounds great, but is sorely lacking in special features. Those few extras that are included are the de rigueur commentary track (with García and Close), the theatrical trailer and a handful of deleted scenes—and not even that much of the latter. Surely the studio could have put more effort into this release than the above, especially for a modern movie with no lack of material upon which to draw.
In summation, Albert Nobbs has a lot to offer, but see it for the acting above all else.