Albert Nobbs reviews

ITALIANO
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Re: Albert Nobbs reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:02 pm

I liked this one better than I expected. It's not perfect, it has its problems - especially towards the end - but it's clearly made with honesty and even affection by all concerned, which make its flaws not less evident but probably more forgivable. The American reviews have been too negative, I think; the Italian ones - generally very good - are maybe too positive, but it's not a bad movie and definitely not as boring as some say. And there haven't been many movies about homosexuals, especially homosexual women, in the 19th Century - so I found this story intriguing, if not completely successful.

The cast is very good. There's at least one great performance - Janet McTeer's. She deserves all the praise she's received and, if not the Oscar itself (I should see all the contenders first), definitely a nomination. Believable, never forced, warm, sympathetic, real - one understands the human being she's playing and, most importantly, one understands that the balanced, strong human being she's now didn't come magically out of nowhere but is the result of an inner, tormented struggle which wasn't easy and probably lasted long. And her "male" mannerism is impressively natural, unaffected.

The movie, of course, isn't about her character (some might add: unfortunately - but not me). This is, after all, Glenn Close's pet project, and also her big comeback. And because she plays an unsolved, unrealized character, at times her performance may seem unsolved, unrealized too. Watching her Albert Nobbs, with his often fixed face, Chaplin-like bowler hat and Pinocchio-like walking movements, at first I instinctively thought of Gordon Craig's Ubermarionette - which is interesting by the way, and certainly partly intentional, but not exactly emotional - and one needs to care for the leading character in any movie. But then, slowly, I must admit that the "old" Glenn Close, the Glenn Close we remember for her subtle performances in the 80s, came to light - she has some touching moments, including a monologue about her past and a very good scene on a beach, and her eyes shine with hope and regret. In these moments, her character - a great character at least on paper, by the way - becomes alive, and you really become interested in Albert Nobbs's sad life and destiny. (Too bad the script can only find the easiest device to conclude his/her story). Is it her greatest performance ever? No, of course - it's more interesting than really effective. But it's still a Glenn Close performance, and honestly a group that recently gave Best Actress to Sandra Bullock can only be proud to have Glenn Close among its nominees again.

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Re: Albert Nobbs reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Sep 04, 2011 11:51 am

In retrospect what we should have been paying attention to was Rodrigo Garcia's track record and not Glenn Close's.
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Re: Albert Nobbs reviews

Postby Reza » Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:21 am

Doesn't seem this is gonna be Close's Oscar movie.

Can someone just film the musical version of Sunset Blvd so Close can finally win her Oscar.

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Re: Albert Nobbs reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:27 pm

Albert Nobbs: Telluride Film Review
by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line

Notable performances by Glenn Close and Janet McTeer mark this carefully made but muted story of women passing as men in 19th-century Dublin.

Story of a woman passing herself off as a man in late Victorian–era Dublin, Albert Nobbs generates a degree of engagement by virtue of its sheer oddness and the carefully calibrated performances of Glenn Close and Janet McTeer. But Rodrigo Garcia’s film only intermittently surmounts the limitations of the central character’s parched emotional existence and restricted horizons, and the resolutions to some principal dramatic lines seem rather too easy. Liddell Entertainment and Roadside Attractions will be able to draw considerable attention to this longtime dream project of actor, co-producer and co-screenwriter Close, but the odds seem against its breaking through beyond specialized venues to connect with a general public.

Based on 19th century Irish writer George Moore’s short story The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, this incarnation of the tale has its origins in a spare stage piece created by the late Simone Benmussa that was first seen in France and was then done in London in 1978 with Susannah York in the title role. Close starred in a 1982 New York production and has ever since tried to mount a screen version and came close about a decade ago with Istvan Szabo, which accounts for the Hungarian director’s story credit on the present film.

Threatening to become known as the modern George Cukor for his consistent skill in eliciting superb performances from actresses, Garcia only adds to his reputation here. Almost never seen in anything but the professional wardrobe of servant at the elegant Morrison’s Hotel, the Albert Nobbs known to fellow workers and the fancy clientele is a fastidious, polite, impeccably correct gentleman who says little and, off-hours, keeps to himself in a drab upstairs room where, unbeknownst to anyone, he keeps his earnings under the floorboards.

When the proprietress Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) informs Nobbs that he’ll need to share his room (and bed) for a night with a painter doing some touch-ups at the hotel, Nobbs invents every excuse as to why this is impossible. But before morning, Nobbs’ secret it out and the panicked woman, whose any chance at a livelihood in impoverished 1898 Ireland will be ruined if her secret is revealed, implores the stranger not to blow her cover.

It isn’t long, however, before the painter, Hubert Page, exposes to Nobbs a secret of his own: He’s actually a she as well. This happens so early that it can’t legitimately be considered a spoiler –it’s no The Crying Game--and there’s no way the remainder of the story can be discussed without knowledge of the twin disguises. The revelation scene is an eye-popper, with this tall, rangy individual, who’s always dressed in bulky jackets and sweaters and has a self-rolled cigarette perennially dangling from mouth’s corner, suddenly flashing Nobbs with the sight of two mountainous breasts.

The complicity of these two cross-dressers provides what drive the narrative possesses. A much more easy-going personality than the terminally repressed Nobbs, “Hubert” not only passes as a man but is married to a woman (the wonderful Bronagh Gallagher). One of the story’s dissatisfactions is that Nobbs’ curiosity over how this came about—did her friend reveal the truth before or after the wedding?—is never answered, an issue which bears on dreams that Nobbs , inspired by Hubert, now dares to entertain.

With the money she’s saved, Nobbs sets her sights on opening a tobacconist’s shop. But for legitimacy’s sake she determines to marry the most attractive member of the hotel service staff, Helen (Mia Wasikowska), a flirty young thing passionately involved with Joe (Aaron Johnson), a dashing but troubled lad set on taking her to America.

After the relatively dry but passably involving initial stretch, this is where the script, written by Gabriella Prekop, John Banville and Close, begins running aground. Bedding down with Joe one moment, Helen deigns to take outings with Nobbs the next, inducing her to spend hard-earned cash on lavish gifts. Helen’s leading Nobbs on makes little sense unless Helen and Joe are planning to rob Nobbs to finance their voyage, and the whole courtship charade feels wrong for multiple reasons; Nobbs knows Helen is already with Joe and, more to the point, it reveals the ultimate narrowness of Nobbs as a character. This is someone without an inner life or emotions other than the perpetuation of the façade she has created. A brief passage allows her to sketch in how she came to such a station in life, but any sense of blood and feelings coursing through her being is missing, leaving Nobbs lacking in multiple human dimensions. The denouement also takes a convenient way out rather than truly grappling with key central issues.

As far as it goes, Close’s characterization is an object of odd fascination; with pale and taut skin, wavy short hair, stiff posture and blank eyes shot through fear, Close entirely expresses the external life of a woman for whom maintaining appearances is truly everything. But unlike the theatrical version, which was a stylized chamber piece, the film cries out for a deeper exploration of this pinched, unrealized human being.

In this regard, Nobbs becomes eclipsed by the Hubert Page character, who has traveled much further down the road to living a full, if still compromised, life. Not only does McTeer have more to play—as a man she seems like a combination of a laconic seafarer and giant street urchin—but she goes at it with real gusto, giving a pulse to the scenes she’s in that is largely absent elsewhere, even though such fine actors as Collins and, as a resident alcoholic doctor, Brendan Gleeson do offer spirited support. Wasikowska is, as always, a welcome presence, but even she has trouble legitimizing the behavior of her character in the late-going.

The opulent but intimate hotel has been warmly and immaclately realized by production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein and Pierre-Yves Gayraud’s costumes also play a key role in helping define the characters, all captured handsomely by Michael McDonough’s camerawork.

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Albert Nobbs reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:27 pm

Variety

Albert Nobbs
By Peter Debruge

One look at Albert Nobbs and you can tell he's not your typical 19th-century butler. Painfully shy, the little man keeps such a low profile, it seems as if he's trying to disappear into the wallpaper -- with good reason. In "Albert Nobbs," the pic's namesake isn't a man at all, but a lady so marginalized by male-dominated Irish society she fashioned a new identity for herself, one that comes at the expense of subterfuge and loneliness. It's a career-crowning role for Glenn Close. Too bad the film is such a drag, unlikely to break out beyond the arthouse circuit.

The fact that the picture exists at all is a testament to Close's perseverance. After earning rave reviews in the role Off Broadway in 1982, the petite powerhouse actress began looking for ways to bring George Moore's original novella to the screen. Less than a decade ago, she picked up traction with a version that would have been overseen by Hungarian helmer Istvan Szabo (who retains a story credit), but the project fell through, delaying Close's passion project until she could find a director.

Her eventual match, Rodrigo Garcia, has made a career of telling femme-centric stories (from "Nine Lives" to "Mother and Child") and saw in Moore's tale of the poor "old perhapser" a rich opportunity to examine Victorian gender roles through modern eyes. Like much of Garcia's earlier work, however, "Albert Nobbs" is corseted into an intellectually conceptual format where the ideas prove far more engaging than the execution.

As such, the Nobbs we meet onscreen is not so much a character as a construct, so repressed that the film's lone emotional breakthrough occurs during a scene in which the usually joyless Nobbs, who hasn't worn ladies' attire in decades, finally dons a full-length dress and runs free on a deserted beach. It's an exhilarating moment in an otherwise claustrophobic piece that offers ample opportunity to admire Close's performance but little reason to identify with her character's fate.

The trouble starts when housepainter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer, a brassy counterweight to Close's tightly wound turn) stops by Morrison's Hotel, where Nobbs has spent the last few years collecting tips and storing them beneath a loose floorboard in her room. The proprietress (a clucky old flirt played by Pauline Collins) insists Mr. Nobbs share his bed with Mr. Page for the night, a nerve-wracking arrangement during which the old servant manages to blow her own secret. What Nobbs doesn't suspect -- but audiences can tell at first glance -- is that Page has also been passing as a man.

Nobbs is agog to find someone else perpetrating the same deception, and yet the discovery opens up all sorts of possibilities she'd never considered. For instance, Page describes how she left her abusive husband and shacked up with another lonely woman willing to help keep her cover, encouraging Nobbs to do the same. But how does someone in Nobbs' position find a woman to share her secret? And is love even possible with someone who's repressed her every emotion for so long?

Masculinized through seamless prosthetics, Close brings far more to the part than a boyish haircut, stiff upper lip and lowered voice; The role also calls for a heart-breaking denial of self. Peering into Close's eyes, we may not understand Nobbs' motives, but we sense just how much the character has sacrificed in order to reinvent herself in such a radical way. The film also captures what appear to be the first hints of a smile Nobbs may have ever experienced before the character embarks on a doomed-to-fail attempt to woo one of the hotel's maids, Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska). Nobbs' hesitant and respectful courtship is no match for the sweaty rutting Helen is already getting from the building's grease-smeared handyman (Aaron Johnson), who sees opportunity in the old butler's advances.

Directing his first period piece, Garcia does a fine job of evoking the era, while only partially managing to convey the circumstances that make Nobbs such a magnet for misery. "Albert Nobbs" is relatively unique among cross-dressing stories in that it takes the form of tragedy rather than full-blown farce. A wee bit of humor would have gone a long way in this dour affair, and the few glimpses we get of Victorian vice (an alcoholic butler sneaking sips from guests' half-finished glasses, the sight of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a wealthy viscount with same-sex persuasions) are scarcely enough to salvage the slow-motion inevitability of looming misfortune.


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