Butlers Don't Cry
For women living in Ireland during the 19th Century, it must have been almost impossible to find any job that paid a decent wage. Albert Nobbs tells the story of one woman who passed as a man for most of her adult life in order to work as a butler.
An unrecognizable Glenn Close stars in the title role, but her appearance comes across as so distracting that it’s hard to pay attention to anything else happening on screen. Close always delivers outstanding performances. However, I think Albert Nobbs should have been played by an unknown actress who might have been more easily accepted as a character like this. Also, similar to The Time Traveler’s Wife, here’s another example of poor judgment in deciding to film a story in which the most important elements involve internal thoughts and feelings rather than situations lending themselves to cinematic treatment.
I take no pleasure in my negative reactions to Albert Nobbs, a project dear to Close’s heart. Besides starring in the film, she also co-wrote the screenplay and served as one of the producers. She even starred as Nobbs in a live theater production back in the 80s. Unfortunately, Close is best in flamboyant roles like the femme fatale she played in Fatal Attraction and Gloria Swanson in Broadway’s musical version of Sunset Boulevard. (In fact, I hope she stars in a film adaptation of the latter. It would be awesome to see and hear her belt out “With One Look” on the big screen!) It’s too bad that portraying a quiet, shy butler with a big secret fails to show off Close’s charismatic talent. She says very little here, for Mr. Nobbs is a tight-lipped, introverted person who counts every coin received, notes them in a ledger and hides them away -- just as he hides his true identity. And when he lets someone in (Janet McTeer), it marks the beginning of the end.
Director Rodrigo Garcia (TV’s In Treatment) doesn’t help much either. The film’s tedious pacing almost put me to sleep. If it weren’t for the eye-catching period look of Albert Nobbs and Mia Wasikowska’s (Jane Eyre) excellent performance as a naïve hotel maid trying to decide between two suitors, I probably would have dozed off through most of the movie.
Based on a George Moore/Gabriella Prekop story, Albert Nobbs shows what lengths a person will go to in order to survive. It also reveals the way planning -- no matter how careful -- can backfire. “Man plans; God laughs,” the old saying goes. Unfortunately, Albert Nobbs boasts lots of planning but very little laughter.
(Released by Liddell Entertainment and rated “R” for some sexuality, brief nudity and language.)
For more information about Albert Nobbs, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.