Saturday, February 4, 2012


An odd mix of quaint and edgy, Albert Nobbs has a plot that often smacks of the creakiest kind of Victorian melodrama. Yet at other times, the story feels startlingly modern, with its insights into gender confusion and sexual identity in turn-of-the-century Ireland. Filming this tale of a middle-aged woman who has lived her entire adult life as a man has been a labor of love for executive producer and star, Glenn Close; she also co-wrote the script and provided lyrics for the closing-credits theme song.

What may surprise viewers is that the film is adapted from a novella first published in 1918 by Anglo-Irish, Victorian/Edwardian author and critic George Moore. Some tired fictional conventions from the era in which the story was written linger in Rodrigo García's film version. But the filmmakers come up with some other alterations to make the tale more intriguing for modern sensibilities, while retaining Moore's twin moods of gentle pathos and social satire.

At the center of the tale is Albert Nobbs (Close), a fastidious veteran waiter at a Dublin hotel called Morrison's, ca. 1898. An outcast orphan who adopted a male persona to survive as a lone teenage girl, Albert has identified as male for so long, she no longer has any other sense of herself. It's not like she takes off her disguise in her room at night; she is her disguise.Close captures this essence of Albert, his innocence and ignorance, with heartbreaking rigor.

But Janet McTeer is absolutely extraordinary as a lesbian who cross-dresses as a man to live openly with her wife. Bluff, cheeky, and wryly self-possessed, McTeer gives what might be the performance of the year. Don't miss it! (Read full review.)

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