The story of Albert Nobbs plays out in a late 18th century Dublin hotel. Nobbs plays the part of a waiter of sorts in this plush, but slightly worn establishment with well-to-do aspirations. Albert tends to the every need of the hotel’s always wealthy and sometimes questionable patrons. He is good at what he does, precise with every gesture and meticulously invisible.
Almost from the start, we’re in on Nobb’s transgender secret. Glenn Close’s asexual portrayal of a lonely, incomplete and muted servant is devastatingly captivating. We watch as Albert weaves his diminutive frame through the hotel, shining shoes, filling wine glasses and prepping guest rooms. His days are rote and taxing as hotel staff here are generally treated more like soulless beings, existing only to serve the upper class. Albert endures his lot as he saves every penny in hopes of one day purchasing a small shop and living a truly fulfilling life.
Nobb’s monotony is broken only when Mr. Page (Janet McTeer), a painter hired to re-touch the fading interior of the hotel, is forced by the manipulative and abusive hotel owner, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), to bunk with Nobbs during his stay. Hubert Page soon figures out what’s behind Albert’s perplexingly blank exterior.
And you guessed it; as it turns out, Hubert Page is a woman in man’s clothing as well. She too lives her life passing for a man and understands Albert on an instantaneously intimate level. While it’s a bit predictable it’s necessary for the story and what a painfully endearing story it is.
Mr. Page inspires Albert to live a real, more fulfilling, albeit unconventional life. Hubert Page makes a good living as a painter. He is married to a delightful seamstress, the lovely Cathleen Page (Bronagh Gallagher). And quickly, the Pages come to represent everything that Albert aspires to.
Nobbs awkwardly begins to chase his dreams of marrying, owning a shop, and earning a living as a tobacconist. He pursues the significantly younger Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska), a chambermaid in the hotel which they also inhabit. Albert’s failed attempts to court Helen Dawes are a painful representation of his inability to really take off and experience his existence. No matter how you look at it—it’s a difficult path he must walk.
In this film, Glenn Close creates a being that emanates a deep pain and compromise, perfectly contained and supremely restrained. Close will make you feel every emotion that her skilled execution conveys on a nearly emotionless face. And I’m just going to go ahead and say it here; she deserves an Oscar for this—cheers to her.
That said; the movie is very good, with a story that sometimes (not enough to ruin the overall effect) comes across as somewhat contrived. Albert Nobbs showcases several outstanding performances and really speaks, despite lacking in some areas. Go for it if you’re into left-of-center-stories. This one is good and merits a closer look.
Albert Nobbs – B
B = Put on some clean clothes, brush your teeth and venture outside into the cold, cruel, real world to watch this at your local indie theater. Alternatively, you can be the slacker we all know and love and stream it on T.V. or add it to your Netflix queue. Chances are, you won’t curse me when the credits roll for recommending.