Early on in Albert Nobbs, Mia Wasikowska’s character calls the title character “a weird little man,” and the same can be said about this movie: it’s a little strange, but somehow it works, and either way you’ll be thinking about it long after you leave the theater. As a testament to the acting in the film, Glenn Close has been nominated for an Oscar for playing Albert.
Our title character Albert (Glenn Close, TV’s Damages) lives in a hotel in Dublin, where he works as a butler. “He” is actually a she, but nobody else knows, because if Albert revealed his true identity, “he” would not be able to support herself and probably would be working as a maid instead and making lower pay.
(I will refer to her as “him” in this review to avoid confusion.)
A Mr. Page (Janet McTeer, Tideland) comes to paint the hotel one day and the hotel owner says he can sleep with Albert in his bed; when Albert is undressing, Mr. Page finds out that he is a woman, and Albert, in the only scene where he is very emotional (like a woman), begs him not to reveal his identity to anyone. Mr. Page has a secret of his own, however, and is more like Albert than Albert would have guessed.
In addition, Albert is saving up his money so that he might buy himself a shop one day, and he thinks that he should have a proper woman to help him run the shop, too, and be his wife. He has his eye on one of the hotel maids, Helen (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), but she’s already “stepping out” with Joe (Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass), another hotel employee. Helen originally tells Albert that she thinks it would be inappropriate to “step out” with two men, but Joe urges Helen to go out with Albert in the hopes of extracting money or gifts from him, so she agrees.
Glenn Close is very feminine-looking, but was almost unrecognizable as Albert. She has close, cropped hair, like a man’s, and wears no make-up or jewelry of any kind. There’s a scene in the film when she wears a dress and bonnet, since she’s forgotten what it feels like to wear a dress or skirt, and it’s almost comical; she is so used to walking like a man that she ends up striding around in a frilly dress, rather than walking daintily. It’s also funny that no one suspects she is a man, because her voice is definitely higher than an average man’s; however, she has her own room, and therefore no roommates to discover her secret, until Mr. Page bunks with her for the night.
Maybe see this film. It was definitely interesting, and Close has been lauded for her performance in it, as she should be; however, being almost two hours long, it starts to drag a bit (my #1 movie pet peeve) and becomes slower and slower as it slogs towards the end of the film. Fans of movies that stray from the conventional, though, will be pleased with Albert Nobbs and its strange set of characters.
Albert Nobbs is currently in theaters, and is rated R with a runtime of 113 minutes.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5