Glenn Close is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Albert Nobbs, a period piece in which she plays a woman masquerading as a man to get ahead in life. Unfortunately for her, getting ahead in life means pinching pennies and working as a servant at a fancy hotel. Unfortunately for us, Albert Nobbs is a dreadful bore.
Close turns in a fine performance as the title character, a woman who for so long has played the part of a man she can't even remember what her real name is, let alone what it feels like to be a woman (in one extremely awkward moment, Close streaks across a beach in full British dress, looking weirder than she does in a tuxedo).
The celebrated actress has turned in so many great performances over the years for much more memorable roles; she's good, her scared eyes twitching with nervousness not at the fear of being discovered, but at interacting with those around with her. Like the rest of the movie, however, the performance feels skin deep, the character's deep secrets and driving psychological issues revealed only when director Rodrigo Garcia and the screenplay (written by Glenn Close and John Banville) see it as convenient.
It's understandable why Glenn Close received an Oscar nomination for the role, but there were more deserving actresses this year.
Ironically, Albert Nobbs seems to have been made with the sole purpose of showcasing Close's acting abilities, but the movie languishes in an uncomfortably distant approach to its story and characters. The title character's situation is interesting, but what drove her to become a man is only explained in a brief, forgettable scene that doesn't do justice to the main protagonist. The audience is never allowed to learn along with her, let alone understand her desires or motivations.
Mia Wasikowska is quite good as Albert Nobbs' love interest (if you can call her that), but her character is incomplete. She takes advantage of the much older Nobbs and shows no interest in "him" whatsoever, but when things get hairy she turns to the she-man, suddenly overwhelmed by Nobbs' good natured if completely misguided intentions. She isn't a very likable character, and yet she's treated with reverence by the end.
The movie is funny at times, serious in others, but it never finds its footing. It may have worked better as an outright comedy laced with serious undertones rather than the other way around; Close and Banville have assembled a cast of colorful characters, but they do frustratingly little with them.
And ultimately, that's the problem with Albert Nobbs. The movie has an intriguing premise and interesting components, but the whole is less than its parts. The main character is bland and far from compelling, but the supporting players do nothing to support the situation or story. There's nothing remarkable about the man/woman, and there is nothing remarkable about Albert Nobbs.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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