Albert Nobbs is more a parable than a person, and “Albert Nobbs” plays out more closely to a fable than an authentic tale.
“Albert Nobbs” is the classic example of a terrific premise for a movie that doesn’t follow through.
Glenn Close, in an Oscar-nominated turn, plays a woman living in 19th-century Ireland who’s been passing herself off as a manservant. After decades of cultivating a humble, inconspicuous exterior, Albert seems to have developed no real identify of his own. (I’ll use male pronouns since that’s how Albert thinks of himself.)
Seemingly uninterested in sex, his only real desires are for security and stability. After a chance meeting with another female living as a man (Janet McTeer, in a hefty performance that got its own nod from the Academy), Albert latches onto the idea of using his savings to open a small tobacco shop. He even wants to marry Helen (Mia Wasikowska), a callow young co-worker, and install her as a sort of business partner and life companion.
The movie faces a couple of problems. Despite some impressive wigs and makeup, the transformation of the women into men isn’t entirely convincing. It’s hard to buy that anyone wouldn’t take one look at Albert and realize he’s in disguise. McTeer, wearing obvious shoulder pads, is even more obvious.
The other challenge is that Albert remains a total cipher even after the credits have rolled. He seems not so much masculine or feminine as sexless. The character also comes across as being not very bright. Pair that with his stubbornly mysterious motivations, and the intrigue surrounding this little figure soon fades.
Special features, which are a little on the scanty side, are the same for Blu-ray and DVD editions. They consist of a handful of deleted scenes and a feature-length commentary track by Close — who also co-wrote the screenplay — and director Rodrigo Garcia.
The pairing is pleasant; I’ve always felt the best commentaries are achieved when filmmakers and cast members collaborate on them.
Please note, “Albert Nobbs” will be released on video May 15.
Film: 3.5 Yaps
Extras: 3.5 Yaps