"ALBERT NOBBS" — ★★★ —Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson; R (some sexuality, brief nudity and language); in general release
Trying to describe the plot line of "Albert Nobbs" is a daunting task. It's a bit like an artistically slow-paced classic from Merchant Ivory colliding with "The Crying Game." Ah, already the imagination runs wild.
Glenn Close is receiving great acclaim, including an Oscar nomination, for her role as Albert, a 19th-century woman who survives a traumatic childhood and scratches out a livelihood in a male-dominated society by passing as a man working as a waiter.
Although Albert has been in service at various locations in the British Isles, her current home is a hotel/boarding house in Dublin. For many years, she has been just one player in a strange but fascinating micro-society comprising the hotel's staff, guests and ownership. Here, Albert Nobbs leads a lonely but stable existence, even providing the opportunity to stash away some money toward her goal of buying and operating a tobacco shop.
Albert's world is rocked when the proprietress of the hotel hires a house painter to spruce a few things up. Janet McTeer stars as Mr. Page, who, while plying his trade, ends up bunking with Albert. Here, both of the men discover that their roommate is not a man at all. The friendship that ensues shakes Albert to the core when she finds that Mr. Page is engaged in a loving, lasting relationship with "his wife" — all in a time and in a society that has little tolerance for those who don't fit into the norm.
Inspired by Mr. Page, possibilities never contemplated by Nobbs begin to jell, leading to sad, misplaced and even pathetic attempts at companionship, if not love.
What initially appears to be a slow-paced film, "Albert Nobbs" manages to pack in a jumble of intriguing and even complex story lines.
While replete with great performances, the person most deserving of her Oscar nomination is Janet McTeer. She is simply fabulous. With all due respect to Glenn Close, I found her character to be … creepy.
I'm glad I saw this film, but I'm not anxious to see it again.
"Albert Nobbs" is rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language; running time: 113 minutes.