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Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Writers: Glenn Close, John Banville, George Moore, Gabriella Prekop
Cast: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Pauline Collins, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark Williams, James Greene, Serena Brabazon, Michael McElhatton, Dolores Mullally, Bonnie McCormack, Phyllida Law, Brendan Gleeson, Kenneth Collard, Judy Donovan, Janet McTeer, Bronagh Gallagher, Aaron Johnson
Synopsis: Glenn Close plays a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men's clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language
That's no waiter...IT'S A WOMAN BABY!
Although not the best drama that I've ever seen, but "Albert Nobbs" is very unique it's own style. The movie is said be based off the short story, "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs", by Irish novelist, George Moore. The film focuses on a woman named Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close), who has been putting on a facade of pretending to be man for years, in order to survive in 19th century Ireland. However, after putting on such an act for so long, she soon finds herself trapped in a world of her own making. To put it frankly, "Albert Nobbs" may not be the type of movie that's going to appeal to everyone, as the story may come off as some stuffy period piece, when one just glances at the trailer.
Plus, there's a bit of a light reference to lesbianism in this film as well (mainly involving Janet McTeer's character), which may put off some mainstream audiences. Not that there's anything wrong with lesbianism, as I have befriended many lesbians and bisexuals in the past. Therefore, who am I judge? Besides, what a person does inside their own home is nobodies' business but their own. I don't care. All I ask for is that you leave me out of it, and I'll gladly do the same when comes to my own affairs. Anyway, I was just stating that as an observation, as I know it's a bit of a touchy subject for some people. I do apologize if I offended anyone with this statement, as I can assure you that was never my intention.
However, if you're willing to look past all these things, then you might find yourself entrapped into arguably one of the deepest dramas ever conceived. As I stated earlier, Albert Nobbs is a woman posing as a man in 19th century Ireland, in order to survive. How she came to such circumstances was out of desperation and fear. Unaware of her own true identity, as she was seemingly abandoned at such a young age, and she was raised by a woman named Nobbs. But as luck would have it though, the woman dies before ever revealing to Albert her real name, and origins.
Wondering the streets homeless at age twelve, Albert becomes the victim of various abuse in her life, with nowhere to go. No one she can confide in, and no one to help her either. One day, she sees that a hotel is hiring for male waiters, so she somehow manages to get hold of a fairly decent evening suit to fool others into thinking she's a man. And, she's been keeping on that disguise ever since. Saving every pound she earns each night in hopes of starting a new business of her own someday, while conveniently staying in the very same hotel that she works in. However, all this changes when Nobbs' boss orders her to share a room with a peculiar stranger named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), as he's hired to paint a few rooms for the hotel. Needless to say, Albert is reluctant at first for obvious reasons, but what choice does she really have? Due to a series of circumstances, Hubert finds out that Albert is really a woman, and vice versa, as it would seem they have a lot in common.
Granted, they both have their own unique story behind why they don the disguises they chose to live by, but they instantly share a kinship together that helps Albert realize she's no longer alone anymore. However, what surprises Albert even more is that Hubert is married to a lovely wife named Cathleen (Bronagh Gallagher).
It's from here, Albert gains the idea that even though she's become trapped inside this social prison that she's laid out for herself, it doesn't mean that she has to be alone anymore; hence she decides to court a girl into marriage. And who might the lucky girl be you may ask? Well, to make a long story short, Albert has her eyes fixed on a young girl named Helen (Mia Wasikowska), who works as a chambermaid at the very same hotel that he works in. Unfortunately, she's already being courted by another young man, who doesn't seem to have her best interests at heart.
Without giving too much away, the film invokes a strong sense of irony, and heartache that has to be seen to be believed. Although I have to admit, I didn't really care much for the relationship between Albert and Helen, at first; mainly because it seemed rather vague as to what Albert's true intentions on marrying her was for. Granted, once they start courting each other, Albert had various fantasies about opening up her own tobacco shop, with Helen running the counter. But did Albert ever love Helen? In the various scenes they're together, Albert never shows much affection towards her as a lover, but more along the lines of a friend if anything else. Needless to say, this sort of confuses Helen, as to why Albert is interested in her to begin with. However, after I've watched the film, and had some time to think about it, I think I finally understand the point of their relationship.
Albert never really loved her per say, but the reason why she pursued her was because she didn't want to be alone anymore. Loneliness is a feeling that any of us can sympathize about, and it's easy to see why Albert would feel this way. Trapped inside a social prison of her own making, to where she can never be who she really is; thus what chances would she ever have at living a normal life? A life where she didn't have to be alone anymore, as she comes to realize that it's possible when she clearly sees how happy Hubert is with her life. Can any of us blame her for wanting the same thing? I don't think anyone can blame her, as anyone would probably feel the same way; given the circumstances.
Sure, some people can gripe about why Helen then if that's the case. After all, it's not like she was ever courting her for love, but I have my own theory on that as well. Helen is portrayed as vulnerable young girl, who's become smitten by a man that clearly doesn't love her, but she's too naive to see it. I firmly believe that Albert sees a younger version of herself in Helen, and instantly feels drawn to her to at least care about her as a friend; hence she feels that if she does get married, then it might as well be to a girl that she feels is in desperate need to escape her servitude as well. Granted, I could be completely wrong in my theory, but this is just how I felt watching the film.
As some of my readers know, I make it a point to never allow the emotional factor of a movie get to me. However, if there's one thing this film talks about that I can heavily relate to is loneliness. As a child, I never had many friends, and still don't to this day. Sure, I've made a lot of acquaintances in my time, but most of the friends I have would never invite me to hang out with them in real life, nor would I ever expect them to. In fact, I share more of a kinship with people that I meet online versus anyone I've ever met in real life, as sad as that may seem. Therefore, I know all about loneliness; probably more than people might think. Granted, I've never pretended to be another gender like she did, nor did I ever suffer the same abuse that she obviously endured, but I do know how it feels like to always feel like your alone in society, and how nobody understands you. Therefore, I'd be lying heavily if I said I didn't feel some degree of sadness for Albert during this movie. Even as I write this review, I can't help but feel saddened thinking about her predicament, and how she must have felt.
Unfortunately, that's not to say the film doesn't have it's own share of flaws. The film tends to drag at times, and the subplot about Albert courting Helen seems to be just thrown in halfway through the film; which is kind of sad, as I think it would've worked better if they had established some sort of friendship between them before the courtship.
As for the acting performances, I can certainly see why Glenn Close and Janet McTeer were nominated for their roles in this movie, as they certainly fooled the hell out of me into thinking they were men; especially Janet McTeer. In one scene for example, Hubert accidentally sees Albert getting dressed, and discovers she's really a woman. As to be expected, Albert panics into thinking that there's a possibility that Hubert might tell on her, so she's constantly groveling and pleading with him to keep his trap shut about it; even though he clearly tells her there's nothing to worry about.
It's from here, Hubert shows that Albert isn't the only one pretending to be a man here, as this helps put her mind at ease. Before Hubert revealed her true sexuality, I have to admit I was completely fooled into thinking she was a guy, as I never would've figured it out if it wasn't for that one scene. All I can say is that after seeing this movie, I wouldn't be too surprised if Janet ends up with an Oscar for this role, as she clearly deserves it.
Not just because she fools the hell out the viewers into actually believing she's a man, but it's mainly because of how powerful her performance is in this film, and how her character somehow brings out intimate details about Albert that we've never would've learned otherwise. Little things like the scene where she asks for her name, and Albert replies, "My name is Albert." Then she asks again saying, "No, I mean you're real name." And to which Albert replies, "My name is Albert." Not only does that one scene signify how lost Albert is in this role she's forced to play, but it also shows how little she knows about her true self, as she never did learn of her families' history or lineage.
As for Glenn Close, I thought she was excellent in her role as well, and certainly deserving of a nomination for "Best Actress" in this year's Oscars. Although I have to admit the chemistry between her and Mia Wasikowska does seem a bit awkward and forced sometimes. However, in context to the film, it's done intentionally because Albert isn't marrying Helen for love, as I've already stated earlier; hence it works showing how Nobbs tries to court a woman that she has no physical attraction to, but merely desires her company. In that sense, the awkwardness and forced chemistry works rather well.
However, I'm a bit surprised that this film wasn't nominated for "Best Costume Design", as I felt the costumes seemed very authentic, and definitely disguised the true sexuality of Glenn Close and Janet McTeer quite well. But then again, maybe that's why it got nominated for "Best Make-Up."
Overall, I would have to give this movie a three out of four. It's definitely worth checking out if you're into dramas, and period pieces. However, if that's not your forte, then I'd probably avoid this one altogether. However, it's definitely worth checking out.