Albert Nobbs (2011) Poster


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Give Close the Oscar!
Rockwell_Cronenberg23 November 2011
At first glance, Albert Nobbs could seem to be another dry and stuffy period piece that would follow in the tradition and be mostly about the acting. However once you delve into it, the film ends up being a surprisingly dense character drama focused around one troubled, courageous woman whose loneliness gets the better of her years of living in secrecy. The titular waiter is a delicate, frail woman masquerading as a man and actress Glenn Close delves into the role with such complete detail that she truly does disappear.

I'm always skeptical of performances that are claimed to be "fully unrecognizable" and at first I must admit that it just felt like Close playing a man, but as the film continued I slowly lost sight of my cynicism and when a later scene portrays Nobbs wearing a dress for the first time I was blown away at the fact that I was seeing this woman be a real woman for the first time. I was amazed at how absorbed Close was in the role, I genuinely forgot all about this woman playing a character and just believed the character's facade, as well as Close's. Close has gotten attention for the role as a potential Oscar vehicle and some have lashed back against that due to the performance being quite restrained, but I admire her delicacy in taking on the role. This is a woman who spent her entire life trying to blend in and be unseen, and Close's ability to be this fly on the wall creature is remarkable.

I was glad that there weren't any hysterics on her part and when the few scenes came where, in isolation, she broke down I was devastated by this woman fearing for her life to unravel. It's such a delicate and entirely human performance, and as far as I'm concerned one of the best of Close's very strong career. The central narrative revolves around Nobbs' desire to woo a young maid named Helen (played with an Irish tilt by the up-and-coming Australian Mia Wasikowska, again shining) to leave their life of servitude and open up a tobacco shop together. Throughout the film I was bothered by this belief that Nobbs was supposed to be in love with Helen and that's why she wanted to open the shop with her, but as the film reached it's final conclusion I came to the realization that it had nothing to do with love.

Throughout her life Nobbs had put in all of her effort to having no one notice her that when she's introduced to a similar woman masquerading as a man (played by the strong and unbelievably convincing Janet McTeer) who has a happy life married to a woman, Nobbs realizes the potential that maybe she doesn't have to live her life alone. It's not about loving Helen at all, it's just about not wanting to be alone anymore and once that became apparent to me the film became quite devastating. Nobbs trapped herself in this prison and Close plays it with such restrained heartache that it truly hit a level with me. Even in writing this I am realizing that the film had a much stronger impact on me than I had previously thought. This is a devastating story of a woman trapped in circumstances of her own making, portrayed with such genuine believability by Close that I forgot I was watching an actress pretend to be a man but instead just saw Nobbs.

There's a line where McTeer's character asks Nobbs what her name is and she responds, "Albert". Then McTeer repeats the question, clearly asking for her birthname instead of the one she is hiding behind and Nobbs again responds, "Albert". At the time I rolled my eyes at the exchange, but now that the whole film has settled with me it speaks so much to this trapped, wounded soul who was so lost in herself that she couldn't escape her own prison, let alone the one that she had built for Nobbs. I found Albert Nobbs to be quite the moving, hushed character piece led by a wrenching performance by Close and backed up by several other strong performances from McTeer, Wasikowska and a grimy Aaron Johnson.
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Janet McTeer is ... transcendent
julikell25 November 2011
Janet McTeer is absolutely transcendent in ALBERT NOBBS.

The waves of emotion which she wraps into Hubert Page are a wonder to behold. Her performance is not one of those 'knock me over with a feather' performances; it's more like a performance that settles in the bottom of your heart and stays there well after the movie ends. It keeps you up at night, and tugs at you for days afterward.

The story itself is more layered than it appears to be. Glenn Close has brought to the screen a very private yet very emotional character. Such a character is difficult to portray -- and the 'talking to one's self scenes' were a bit annoying, as all such scenes are.

In the end, however, this is a movie well worth your time.
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A Towering Close
billcr1217 February 2012
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times(apologies to Dickens) in this Irish drama of the affluent and the working class at the turn of he century. Glenn Close is a towering figure throughout as Albert Nobbs, a butler at an upscale hotel in Dublin. Close and Mia Wasikowska are both magnificent in this saga of gender identity. Nobbs is dressed as a man in order to work and survive in a world better suited to being a male and she is searching for who and what she should be. Her dream of opening a shop with a woman she has fallen in love with, well played by Wasikowska is deeply affecting.

Janet McTeer and Brendan Gleeson round out a perfect ensemble cast as they are two of the best actors working today. Gleeson brings some comic relief as the resident doctor and McTeer gives a sympathetic ear and emotional support to Close.

Sinead O'Connor sings the final song as the credits roll. The story is a sad one but due to the great cast it is a movie worth watching.
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Beautiful film
jqapac7 October 2011
I saw this film at the Mill Valley Film Festival Opening last night and I thought it was an amazing piece. Luckily I didn't have an preconceived notions about the film. I hadn't heard anything about it which for me is always the best way to go into a film. I always set high standards for any film that Glen Close is a part of and she definitely met that expectation and then some.

Visually, Albert Nobbs had a fairy tale feel to it. I would say it was an atypical film without political agenda. A simple but highly intelligent story full of life and character detail. I would like to see this again. I have a feeling that in a second screening I would see so many new things that are so subtle in the first viewing.

Glen Close transformed completely. It was dazzling to watch. I was captivated by her face and her mannerisms. I would highly recommend this film to friends. A must see!
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Tortured soul
moviemanMA15 January 2012
Albert Nobbs is a labor of love. Glenn Close, who stars in the titular role, has been connected with this material for nearly 20 years, playing the same role on stage in 1982. For years she tried to get the production to the big screen, and after a long wait her efforts have put forth a brilliant film. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment), this film tells the story of Albert, an Irish waiter at a hotel. The trouble is she has been portraying herself as a man for 30 years. She has become encased in her mindset of Albert Nobbs that she doesn't know her true self anymore. She must do whatever it takes to get by, even if it means keeping her secret to the grave.

She befriends a local painter, Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), only Hubert isn't all that he says he is either. With Hubert's friendship, Albert sees that what he needs is a wife. He attempts to court another maid at the hotel, Helen (by Mia Wasikowska), only she has taken a shine to Joe (Aaron Johnson), the new handyman. It's sometimes painful to see the lengths that Albert goes to for Helen, but Albert it so pure in his thinking and kind of heart that we want him to get the girl no matter what.

What makes Albert Nobbs so special is Close's performance. Close truly fits the part. There is something in her eyes that makes you really believe that the woman in Albert is only what he keeps hidden under his clothes. All the rest is a man. Close makes us believe that Albert sees himself as a man only just a little different. We see a fragile man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means sucking up to the harsh and vulgar members of high society.

The supporting cast around Close is fantastic as well. McTeer really shines as Albert's only true friend. I would look for both Close and McTeer to be in contention come this Oscar night. Wasikowska and Johnson look great for their respective parts, playing them with honesty. Another accent to the cast is Brendan Gleeson as the local doctor. He adds a touch of sensibility to the entitled of the day. He likes a good, stiff drink (or three) and finds himself comfortable in the company of those considered lower than him.

Gleeson's character brings up a great quality to the film. I am astonished at how much of a commentary of 19th century life is put into the film. I would say most of the first act is setting up the world they live in and periodic references and characters enter the second and third acts to remind us of the time period this story is taking place. Albert Nobbs is in fact a reflection of what it was like to live back then. In order to make a decent living one had to be a man, otherwise find someone to live off of.

It's a heartbreaking story that will really hit home. Albert on the surface is a simple man, but underneath lies a wealth of feeling, confusion, and love. The film ends with the beautiful song "Lay Your Head Down" with lyrics by Close herself, music by Brian Byrne, and sung by Sinead O'Connor. It reminded me of "Into the West" by Annie Lennox, the Oscar winning song from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This song from Albert is somber, sweet, and plays like a lullaby. I think it's safe to say that is exactly what it is; a lullaby for Albert, a character whose life has been so strenuous and tiresome.

The more I think about it the more I love this film. Great performances, great characters, and a perfect time period to be placed in. The song is the icing on the cake (and probably has the best shot at winning come Oscar night). It looks like Meryl Streep is all but a lock for Best Actress, but we shall see what happens. Who knows, maybe Albert will gain momentum coming down the homestretch. I hope it does.
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Phenomenal performances by Glenn Close and Janet McTeer
www.ramascreen.com21 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
When an actor transforms, he or she only lets you see the characters they play and Glenn Close's transformation in ALBERT NOBBS is acting in is purest form. Janet McTeer gives an equally incredible performance! Close is a 5 time Oscar nominee and it's high time she gets her long overdue appreciation. With a narrative that centers on unrequited love, identity and heartache, ALBERT NOBBS is the most powerful, emotional drama about longing for acceptance and freedom of expression since Brokeback Mountain… When I first saw the trailer/preview a few months back, two things came to mind, the first one was that it had that Gosford Park vibe to it and the second impression was that I couldn't believe that that was Glenn Close who I was I watching. Close is an actress who not only surrenders completely to her roles but she also has such strong convictions in them, you can't help but be amazed at every speech and every gesture she makes. This transgender performance without a doubt is her best work yet. Her co-star, Janet McTeer, also a fellow Oscar nominee, doesn't have a problem keeping up with Close. McTeer meets the challenge, stares it right in the eye, and steals the scenes any chance she gets. The story is heartbreaking and yet irresistible and wonderful, very well-written and well-directed. It's like an enchanting tale that grounded, a period piece with a relevant and timeless issue, and it speaks about society. All of the characters in this film contribute to Albert Nobbs' story arc. I think you'll find Mia Wasikowska's and Aaron Johnson's characters very interesting because their type of relationship is no stranger to all of us. Mia plays a maid who's needy and insecure, and then comes along Johnson's character who sweeps her off her feet, only to eventually use her to his advantage. At times the film moves gently and other times there's a tug of war going on that heightens the conflict. Albert Nobbs is both a tragic and inspiring character, she's spent so many years being what she's not, she doesn't know how to be who she is anymore. She has a dream but she can't find anyone who'd share that dream with her, even Mr. Page (McTeer), the one person who accepts her, the person whose life Nobbs desperately wants to live up to, wouldn't take the chance, and so that forces her to go back to chasing a fool of a woman who's head over heels for a drunkard. It's a story that offers rude awakening as a way to get everyone around Nobbs to finally learn their lesson, for us the audience to be a bit more sympathetic.
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Haunting, bittersweet gender swap period piece proves illuminating
Turfseer20 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Having seen director Rodrigo Garcia's excellent 'Woman and Child' at last year's Spirit Award screenings, I was surprised to see him tackling a period piece, 'Albert Nobbs', which is based on a 1927 novella by the Irish novelist, George Moore, and later turned into a stage production in 1982, starring Glenn Close, who now again tackles the title role, this time playing the part decidedly as a middle-aged character. Garcia is one of today's leading directors as he has a reputation for being sensitive to the needs of women and extremely competent in directing them.

'Albert Nobbs' is set in the late nineteenth century in Dublin and focuses on Glenn Close as Albert, a woman who works as a servant at the Morrison Hotel and who's been pretending to be a man since the age of 14. When Mrs. Baker, the pretentious proprietress of the hotel (brilliantly played by Pauline Collins, known for her role in the famed TV series, 'Upstairs, Downstairs'), orders Albert to put up house painter Hubert Page (played by a fantastic Janet McTeer), for the night in her room, Albert can no longer hide her disguise when she's compelled to strip off her corset due to an infestation of fleas inside her clothes. It looks like Page is going to end up blackmailing Albert but in a great plot twist, she reveals that she's a woman too, by revealing her pendulous breasts.

Albert, who is extremely reserved, is shocked at Page's revelation but nonetheless is impressed how Page conducts herself as a man. While Albert is deathly afraid of being found out, Page is self-assured and cocky. She even is legally married to a woman and they have a loving relationship (Albert seeks to learn if they're on intimate terms, but Page refuses to tell).

Albert dreams of opening up a tobacco shop and has been hoarding her money underneath a floorboard in her room. With Hubert as a model, Albert becomes a infatuated with Helen, a very pretty, young servant girl. While Mia Wasikowska practically sleep-walked through her recent role as 'Jane Eyre', here director Garcia turns her into a powerhouse of vacillating feelings and emotions. Soon, Mrs. Baker hires the young 'bad boy' boiler repairman, Joe, and Helen falls for him hook, line and sinker.

There are actually two antagonists in 'Albert Nobbs'. First is the Victorian society itself, that forces women such as Albert and Hubert to deny their true selves, in order to survive. It was all about economics, as women were paid very little or weren't allowed to work at all. Often, they were brutalized by alcoholic husbands and some (or should I say, a few) chose to run away and hide their identities, acting as men. The epitome of those men who put women in such a position, is the ne'er-do-well, Joe, who can't control his anger and refuses to accept the idea that he has a responsibility to act as a caring father.

While 'Nobbs' is often sad, director Garcia wisely inserts some humorous scenes to balance the tragedy. There's a great scene where Albert and Hubert take a stroll on the beach, dressed as women. Ever so briefly, Albert actually gets to experience feelings of joy, as she runs down the shore for the first in women's clothes. They seem to revel in their awkwardness but Albert soon trips and falls. The joy is short-lived and we immediately cut back to the hotel, where Albert must re-assume his role as the stiff-necked servant.

Tragedy is unavoidable when a typhoid epidemic claims the life of Hubert's wife, Kathleen. And Joe, in his anger, knocks Albert against a wall, after the two tussle for Helen's affection. The blow against the wall is the coup de grace, as Albert does not survive.

Garcia also depicts the brutal class differences in the late nineteenth century. The guests at the hotel are for the most part quite arrogant and treat the servants as inferiors. Not everybody back then was unkind though. Dr. Holloran orders Mrs. Baker not to throw Helen out on the streets after she becomes pregnant.

'Albert Nobbs' ends on a bittersweet note. Dr. Holloran bemoans Albert's fate when he discovers that she's a woman on her deathbed. But Hubert plays the role of the redeeming angel. He learns from Helen that soon child welfare officials will come for the baby and Mrs. Baker will indeed throw her out on the streets. But Hubert assures her that it won't happen—that soon she will take Helen as a wife and protect her and the baby from any harm.

There has been some criticism that the Albert character is underdeveloped and needs more of a back story. One critic writes: "Nobbs is so emotionally stunted by the very act of living as to almost cease to exist." There may be some truth in that opinion but by the same token, we do learn about Albert's childhood and how she came to adopt her role as a man. You can probably appreciate Albert's character more if you place it in contrast to Hubert. They should be looked as a team, reminiscent of 'Laurel and Hardy', sans the comedy. Albert's demeanor is both dour and precise; he's a bit of a Chaplinesque character, and although her pursuit of Helen is naïve, it's quite heartfelt. Hubert is always comfortable in her own skin, and is much more confident than Albert. In a sense, Albert lives on in Hubert, who must be seen as a great 'protector' of all women.

'Albert Nobbs' is a very impressive film with a top-notch cast. Close and McTeer work wonders in difficult roles and are supported by equally impressive supporting players. The cinematography evokes the bygone era of turn-of-the-century Dublin with director Garcia most ably conveying what it was like living in such a repressed atmosphere. Maybe that's why James Joyce eventually left Dublin and never came back.
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A different Glenn Close at her best....
aeljs8 December 2011
Glenn Close's portrayal of the title character was excellent! She was at her best in this picture. Perhaps the reason why other people who saw the movie felt that the movie is draggy and her portrayal is so-so was because there wasn't any hysteria in it. There wasn't any grandstanding scene. There wasn't a shouting match. No loud confrontations. No slapping and hair-pulling scenes. It's a quiet movie so unlike of Close's other known portrayals.

But one can't simply ignore the greatness she has shown in her eyes. You can feel the sadness, the pain, the fears and the hope in her eyes. It was a quiet, restrained performance that is quite haunting that stays in your mind even after watching it. And that's what happened to me. Hours after watching it, the scenes and her story still lingers in my mind.

Everyone in the movie gave worthy performances.... Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Pauline Collins, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Myers (even though he was in 3-4 scenes only) and most especially, Janet McTeer.

McTeer's characterization was superb. Her body built helped a lot in her portrayal of Hubert Page. But i don't believe that she upstaged Close's here. Her character was quite different from the character that Glenn Close was portraying. And both did quite well in giving justice to the roles they played in the movie.

The beach scene was excellent... quiet, yet conveys so much feelings...

How i wish that those who've seen the movie and saw it differently will watch it again and see the story from Albert Nobbs' point of view. See the expressions in 'his' eyes and feel the tragedy of the life 'he' has gone through.

Glenn Close really deserves to win the Oscar's Best Actress plum with this movie.
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Fascinating lead performances outshine a not as compelling story
chaz-2831 January 2012
When men dress up as women in the movies, it is almost always in a comedy or farce; think Some Like It Hot (1959), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Tootsie (1982). However, when the situation is reversed and the film concerns women dressing up as men, the movie is habitually a drama bordering on tragedy: Yentl (1983), Boys Don't Cry (1999), and Osama (2003). Perhaps men trying to pass themselves off as women are just funnier and more outlandish, but the reasons behind it are usually not as urgent. In Albert Nobbs, Albert (Glenn Close) is the head waiter at an upscale hotel in 19th century Ireland. He appears to be middle-aged and has been passing himself off as a man since he/she was 14. His livelihood and future in the midst of immense unemployment and desperate surroundings depend on maintaining this deception.

I use the pronouns 'he' and 'his' because nothing about Albert is female except for the some well hidden physiology. Albert is extremely adept at passing as a man. When he speaks at all, his voice is low. His hair is short, he is impeccably dressed, his manners are irreproachable, and he does nothing whatsoever to call any attention to himself. As any man-servant should be, he is invisible. Working in the hospitality industry is just a means to end for Albert though. He lives such a spartan lifestyle because he hoards his money underneath his floorboard to one day soon purchase a shop and become a respected tobacconist. He is close; he has identified the vacant shop, has planned its layout, and can almost feel the escape which will come when he is his own boss.

Albert knows something is missing in his grand scheme though; he is lonely. In the beginning, he does not recognize he is missing anything important until he is forced to share his room one night with a man, Mr. Hubert Page (Janet McTeer). Through a contrived sequence, Albert is revealed as a female to Mr. Page and only later on learns Mr. Page is also a woman. Using what look like camera tricks and perspective shots, Mr. Page is a towering and bulky workman. He is also married to a woman. This bit of news tremendously confuses poor Albert. How is it possible for two women to be married to one another? It is obvious that Mr. Page and his wife are in a lesbian relationship; however, Albert would not even know what that word means. Albert comes across as asexual. There has never been a chance in his life to conceive of intimacy so all feelings and aspects of that persona just atrophied away.

Now that Albert's eyes are opened to the fact that there are women out in the world who are married to each other, he sets his eyes on the lowly but young and desirable chambermaid Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Helen knows just how pretty she is and becomes smitten by the newly employed handyman Joe (Aaron Johnson). Not only is Albert stunted in the intimacy realm of life, but his social skills are also not as fine tuned as the younger set who now aware of Albert's infatuation with Helen, may try to use those feelings for their financial gain.

While the story of Albert Nobbs is on the weaker side and not particularly engaging, the acting, specifically by Close and McTeer, is fascinating. There is a scene where Albert and Mr. Page try on some dresses and take a walk outside. For Albert, this is the first time he has worn a dress in probably 30 years. The immediate discomfort but growing acceptance and then utter joy on his face is a wonderful scene as he experiences some long repressed feelings while ecstatically running on the beach. McTeer's performance is equal to Close's in every way. She/he looks 100% like a man dressed up as a woman when he puts on that dress. The makeup department for this film is spot on, much better than J. Edgar and The Iron Lady. Even though they did not have to age the characters as those aforementioned films did, transforming two women into men so effectively as they do is worth the price of admission alone.

Director Rodrigo Garcia, who happens to be the son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is becoming known as the go-to filmmaker for involved and complex stories about women. He also directed Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000), Nine Lives (2005), and Mother and Child (2010), all recognized as thoughtful films with strong female leads. Glenn Close co-wrote the screenplay and brought with her a long experience of understanding Albert since she played him in the 1982 stage production.

I recommend Albert Nobbs to enjoy the performances and to witness the forceful presences of Glenn Close and Janet McTeer and their convincing portrayals of the opposite sex. The story is not as compelling as one would wish for a period piece such as this, but it is nevertheless overshadowed by the acting.
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women's relationships
Lee Eisenberg29 January 2012
The three movies that I've seen that Rodrigo García (son of Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez) directed deal with women's relationships: "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her", "Mother and Child" and now "Albert Nobbs". In the latter, Glenn Close plays a woman posing as a man in 19th century Dublin and working as a butler in a posh hotel. When the hotel owner hires a painter named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), Albert soon finds out Hubert's secret. From there, relationships with other staff members proliferate.

The movie brings up several issues. Aside from Ireland's status as a British colony in the 19th century, there's the social hierarchy in the hotel, and the forbidden relationships. Albert's posing as a man is partially because of some haunting experiences, but also because women didn't have as many opportunities open to them back then. As a result of his hiding in this male persona, Albert has been hiding from himself, one might say.

All in all, I thought that this is a very well done movie. Close looks eerily gaunt in the role, easily passing as a man, while Mia Wasikowska, playing a maid, has the perfection balance of strength and fragility. I recommend the movie. Also starring Aaron Johnson (John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy"), Pauline Collins, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maria Doyle Kennedy.
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