Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Glen Close Close to the Vest in "Albert Nobbs"

Oscar-Nominated Film “Albert Nobbs” in Boca

By Skip Sheffield

Now that Glenn Close and Janet McTeer have been nominated as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for this year’s Academy Awards, there should be a temporary surge in box office for the quirky little comedy-romance, “Albert Nobbs.”
Let me stress “Albert Nobbs” is not a laugh-out-loud comedy. It is hardly a comedy at all. It just has some ironically funny situations stemming from sexual role-playing and romantic misunderstandings.
The film is a labor of love for Glenn Close, who co-wrote the screenplay and starred in the play on which this is based almost 30 years ago.
It’s late 19th century Ireland. The character of Albert Nobbs (Close) showed at age 14 at Morrison’s Hotel. The hotel’s owner, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) took pity on the waifish lad and added him to the hotel staff
It is now 30 years later and Albert is an esteemed but almost silent, almost invisible butler.
Albert’s unruffled, predictable routine is upset when Hubert Page, a boisterous outgoing fellow, is hired to do some painting at the hotel. The thing is, like Albert, Hubert is really a woman too. That fact is revealed somewhat humorously when Albert is forced to room with Hubert.
If that weren’t confusing enough, Hubert is married to a woman (Bronagh Gallagher) who may or may not know Hubert’s true sexual identity, and who cares?
Confusing matters even further is lovely Helen (Mia Wasikowska), a young maid to whom Albert is attracted. Helen likes little Albert OK, but she is stirred more by the brutish boiler man Joe (Aaron Johnson).
Yes, “Albert Nobbs” is a feminist fable- an allegory really- about oppressive social, political and economic dictates. Victorian England and Ireland were notoriously anti-female, yet at the time the U.K. was ruled by one of its strongest most steadfast Queens, Victoria Regina.
While Glenn Close’s performance as this bottled-up little person is impressive, there is little to like about the melancholy character. The character we really like is Janet McTeer’s Hubert. In this year’s Oscar sweepstakes she has a much stronger chance of bringing home the gold.
If you are interested in sociology and gender politics, “Albert Nobbs” is a film for you. I don’t think it stands much of a chance with America’s mainstream audience.

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