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STUDIO Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME 113 minutes
– Audio Commentary Featuring Glenn Close and Rodrigo Garcia
– Deleted Scenes
– Theatrical Trailer
A fantastic character study with a ho-hum plot.
Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Albert Nobbs is a woman who longs to be independent during a time when this is frowned upon, so she poses as a man in order to earn the funds needed to open her own business. As she attempts to earn a living as well as a family, she slowly learns that this may not be as simple as it seems.
When someone spends fifteen years trying to get a film made, I suppose you could call it a passion project. Glenn Close had been trying to get this film produced ever since she portrayed the titular character in the play “The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs”. Close came close (sorry, I had to) in 2000, but it fell apart due to financing troubles. Close finally succeeded in 2010, enlisting director Rodrigo García.
In addition to playing the titular role, Close is also credited as producer and co-writer on Albert Nobbs. Her passion for the character is the thing that elevates Albert Nobbs from a fairly pedestrian film to one of the most interesting character studies I’ve seen in years.
Albert Nobbs is quite the damaged woman. After being raised in a convent and eventually thrown out on own once her mother died and could no longer pay the fee’s, she was brutally gang raped at the age of fourteen by five men. Soon after, she discovered a need for waiters at a local inn, and began dressing as a man in order to keep the job. This went on for quite some time until Albert simply began living life as a man. This is where the movie begins, and it takes quite some time before the audience finally learns any of this back story.
The opening of the film is dedicated to setting up the supporting characters, such as Mia Wasikoska’s Helen, who is a maid at the hotel. Mia quickly falls for Joe Mackins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is recently unemployed and shows up to do some small jobs around the hotel. The two quickly fall in love, much to the dismay of Albert, who has also become taken with Mia. Joe decides to use this to their advantage, forcing Mia to lead Albert on with hopes that he will eventually fund the couple‘s escape to America. Mia and Albert develop a strange but sweet relationship throughout the film, however, and once Joe’s alcoholic tendencies are revealed, Mia isn’t sure where her loyalties lie.
Unfortunately, this triangle is something we’ve all seen dozens of times before, but thankfully Alberts back-story manages to keep things interesting. Albert almost comes across as mentally handicapped for the majority of the film, having no real grasp on relationships or the way the world works. She seems to believe that couples get together simply because starting a family is the proper thing to do, not for the sake of love or any romantic connection. Its clear that this is due to the traumatic experiences she had as a child, but the film never dives into this too deeply. It allows the audience to come to any and all realizations they may have on their own, something all too rare in the medium nowadays. By forcing the audience to work in order to get something out of this film, I can see why Albert Nobbs alienated so many critics; however, I can also see why it won some over.
It’s obvious that Close has spent a lot of time with this character, and her work on the stage obviously enhances her work on the screen. She brings a vulnerability to Nobbs the likes of which I haven’t seen in any other film I’ve watched since this was released. She almost never speaks above a whisper, yet the audience always knows that she has emotions boiling below the surface. Her cluelessness regarding the opposite sex is never played for laughs, and Close does a fantastic job keeping the character relatable yet unmistakably alien at the same time.
Janet McTeer is also wonderful as Hubert Page, another woman living life as a man. Hubert serves as Nobbs’ mentor of sorts throughout the film. The scenes they share together are some of my favorites, as they bring moments of levity to an otherwise sad film. Everyone else does a fine job, though no one really stands out. Of course, that could be due to the generic nature of the rest of the plot, but thankfully Close and/or McTeer show up in just about every scene to keep us interested in the proceedings.
Rodrigo Garcia is a director who has worked mostly on television productions, though you would never know it by his work here. He directs the film with complete faith in his actors, allowing them to do all the work while he simply frames everything in a way that never becomes distracting. The film is a joy to watch, with sets that feel incredibly real and vibrant. I can’t wait to see more period pieces from him, as he has a great eye for this sort of thing.
Overall, Albert Nobbs is comprised of a fantastic lead performance that’s open to many different interpretations. If you do your research, you’ll come out of this one with thought-provoking questions regarding gender roles and the ways they affect our society, both when this film takes place as well as today. Glenn Close deserves all the praise she has received for this one, and its more than worth a watch simply for that.
I was impressed with the transfer on this DVD. It popped in a way that I’m only accustomed to seeing from blu-rays, which is a nice surprise considering that this wasn’t a big hit by any means. The sound design in the film is also fantastic, and it really comes across when watching this with a decent setup.
The special features are nothing out of the ordinary. The commentary sheds a lot of light on the work that went into getting this film made, and it’s obvious Close was insanely passionate about the project. The deleted scenes actually make some smaller moments in the film make more sense, but none of them are actually necessary viewing.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars