Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close’s cross-dressing butler is an oddity, unsurprisingly

Albert Nobbs

©Morrison Films / Chrysalis Films 2011

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer

There's something a little off about Albert Nobbs. Though he's the most diligent butler working at a high-end hotel in Victorian Dublin, he has the countenance of a shriveled schoolboy and an awkwardly pubescent vocal register to match. That's because he is actually a she, of course: Glenn Close is reprising the role that she first played in an off-Broadway production nearly thirty years ago. The actress has long nurtured a dream of bringing George Moore's novella to the screen, and the finished article is a handsome, deeply weird piece of work.

After years of attempting to keep a low profile, Nobbs has a chance encounter with another male impersonator – a tall, confident painter who's taken the name Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) – and begins to aspire for a better life of her own. Searching for a wife figure to make her fantasy complete, she picks angelically pretty housemaid Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Too bad that Helen has already hooked up with the new maintenance man (Aaron Johnson), a ruggedly handsome chap who's clearly not going to stick around for the long haul.

This love triangle, such as its is, barely manages to get off the ground. While Close's Nobbs might have made a convincing suitor when she played the role in 1982, her attempts to woo Wasikowska's character just feel creepy now. With her rictus-like facial expression and almost autistic grasp of inter-personal relationships, Nobbs just isn't a particularly sympathetic protagonist, and while her travails are intriguing they're never especially involving. By the end, I was wishing that they'd focused on McTeer instead, who is both a warmer screen presence and a much more convincing bloke.

Albert Nobbs opens at Toho Cinemas Chanter, Hibiya on January 18

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By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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