I can’t lie, Albert Nobbs really confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t tell if this was a character study, a love story, a thesis on gender studies, a look at Irish life at the turn of the century, and a slew of other things. In lieu of all this, it was hard for me to decide if I liked it or not.
A love project for Glenn Close, she stars as the titular character who’s actually a woman disguised as a man with the name Albert Nobbs. Because jobs for women are hard to come by, appearing as a man to keep her job as a waiter at an Irish hotel is what she needs to do to get by. Her cover is almost blown when a handyman named Hubert Page (played by the unbelievable Janet McTeer) accidentally sees Albert undressing. It turns out the cross dressing isn’t as uncommon as one suspects.
Among the hotel’s colorful staff is Helen Dawes, a spunky little maid who falls for the new handyman Joe, your A-typical Irish drunkard, who plans to whisk Helen away to America. Albert begins to take a liking toward Helen, and tries to admit a love for her.
This wasn’t one of my favorite films to watch from 2011. I downloaded it based on the awards buzz, but that’s about it. The buzz is built around Close’s gender-bending portrayal of a woman posed as a man, but it wasn’t that great of a performance anyway. She quietly moves around the hotel and streets with her cheeks sucked into her face to increase her masculine facial features. Not a very showy performance, but very quiet and acceptable.
The supporting cast does its job, but like most movies Mia Wasikowska is in, she really annoyed me. In one scene that could make or break the friendship between Helen and Albert, Wasikowska sounds like a horrible wannabe actress auditioning for her first bit part in a micro budgeted indie film. It’s so over the top in camp that I wanted to slap her.
One a different note, the song that plays at the end of the credits, Lay Your Head Down, is such a beautiful tune but it doesn’t make sense with the film. Nice, but not fitting for the film.