Sunday, December 11, 2011

“Albert Nobbs” – Movie Review



This weekend in my movie class, we had a bonus screening of the drama “Albert Nobbs”, starring Glenn Close (in the title role), Janet McTeer and Brenda Fricker.



When a woman is forced to pose as a man in order to earn a living, she constantly lives in danger of being discovered – but after she realizes she’s miserable because she’s alone, will she ever be able to find someone with whom she can share her life? 


In 19th Century Dublin, Ireland, jobs are few and far between, especially if you’re not well educated – and it’s even tougher if you’re not a man.  That’s why Albert Nobbs (Close) works hard, doesn’t complain and tries to stay out of the poorhouse.  But Albert is suffering in silence with a secret – Albert is really a woman.  As a result of her secret, Albert must live a guarded lonely life, allowing no close friends for fear that she will lose her job in the event she is ever found out. 

Working as a waiter in the restaurant of a hotel, Albert lives a modest life, making many sacrifices as she saves just about every tip she’s ever earned over the years, spending very little of it on herself or anyone else.  With the money hidden under the floorboard of her small but tidy room, Albert keeps strict records so she’ll know when she has enough to fulfill her dream of buying a store where she can make a living as a tobacconist.  One day, Polly (Fricker), the owner of the hotel/restaurant where Albert works, decides to bring in a house painter named Hubert (McTeer) to brighten up one of the rooms at the hotel.  Due to the shortage of rooms for the hired help, Polly decides that Albert must share not only a room but also a bed with Hubert. 

On the very night that they share the room together, Hubert accidentally stumbles upon Albert’s dreaded secret – but shortly thereafter, Albert learns that Hubert is living with a similar secret:  Hubert is also a woman passing herself off as a man in order to earn a living.  The only difference is that Albert sees that Hubert has adapted to it much better, being more self-accepting and even finding a romantic partner in life.  This inspires Albert to set out to find someone who will serve as a similar life partner and decides to court a young waitress who works at the same restaurant.  But when the waitress also dates a charming handyman employed by the hotel, can Albert somehow manage to win over the affections of the waitress?


Once this movie finished, the woman behind me turned to her friend and said, “I couldn’t wait for that to be over!”.  This pretty much expresses my sentiments about “Albert Nobbs” exactly.  Having said that, however, I will also be quick to tell you that this woman and I apparently were outnumbered because the majority of the class – including and especially our instructor – really liked the film quite a good deal.  The people who appreciated this movie overwhelmingly noted Glenn Close’s performance as one of the main reasons why they enjoyed “Albert Nobbs”. 

“Albert Nobbs” was based on an off-Broadway play, which in turn was based on a short story.  Glenn Close starred in the play almost 30 years ago; it gained critical acclaim and she wound up winning an award for her acting performance.  Although she very much wanted to make a film version, she had a tough time getting financial backing.  In this movie, she is not only credited as star, but as a co-producer and co-writer of the screenplay as well.  For me, it seems that the play was not adapted terribly well for the screen; it would appear that in the stage version, there may have been a good number of monologues where the character of Albert address the audience.  The film version may have retained those monologues, although in those scenes, it looks like Albert is losing his mind because the character is talking to himself so much. 

Another way the film failed for me was again related to the way the story was told – once more, blame can be attributed to the screenplay here.  The way in which the audience learns of Albert’s secret and background is seriously muddled and delayed until far too long into the movie.  What seems to have been lacking here was an introduction to the audience of Albert’s secret earlier in the movie, then adding a flashback scene later on so we can see Albert’s beginnings and childhood, rather than merely hearing Albert’s brief narrative.  Add to this a long, drawn out ending after the audience already feels the movie has concluded and you have a film that is ultimately betrayed by the structure of its script. 


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