REVIEW: Albert Nobbs

3 01 2013

If a movie is someone’s passion project, shouldn’t you feel – well, passion oozing out of every frame?

Don’t answer that rhetorical question because it’s what sounds the death knells for Glenn Close’s “Albert Nobbs,” a movie she fought for 30 years to get to screen.  You might notice that I attributed the movie to Close herself and not to Rodrigo Garcia, its director.  That was not an accident.  He doesn’t seem to have much of a vision for the movie, nor does he seem to care half as much as Close.

Over the summer, I got really into the TV show “Damages,” a superb drama starring Glenn Close.  I recommend it far more than I do “Albert Nobbs” as I would finish seasons in a matter of days.  And in the more recent ones, it was clear that she was masculinizing herself to prepare to play Albert Nobbs, the Irish woman disguised as a male butler in order to buy a tobacco shop and some freedom.

As I watched “Albert Nobbs,” I found myself wondering what about this story and this character was so appealing and enticing to Close.  It’s not as showy as some of her famous roles, although that’s not always a bad thing.  All movies don’t need to give their star the hypothetical “Oscar scene,” and this one sure does not.

But “Albert Nobbs” has no drama to entice us in, no multidimensional characters to gain our curiosity.  We mainly watch because we expect something big to happen, and it just doesn’t.  The most surprising revelation comes in the first act when the new butler, the large Hubert Page, pulls Albert into a side room and reveals what lies underneath her shirt: Janet McTeer’s breasts.

The movie moves along at the pace of the molasses that Close’s Cruella DeVille falls into in “101 Dalmatians.”  It’s brutally boring and a tedious watch, one that results in no ultimate emotional or intellectual payoff.  If it was some sort of commentary on the oppression of women, it was hidden far beneath the film’s self-constructed cocoon of miserable understatement.  C2stars

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