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

REVIEW: Mother and Child

19 12 2010


Most movies that we eagerly anticipate, we run out to see in theaters in the first few weeks of release.  Those that we leave for video are ones that we expect to be trash or those which we had no real desire to see in the first place.  Why do we have these low expectations?  Because, for the most part, Hollywood perpetuates them.  What we save to see on video is rarely any good.

But then again, with these low expectations, it’s just that much easier for a movie to sneak up and floor us.  Such is the case of “Mother and Child,” Rodrigo Garcia’s hyperlink drama intertwining three different stories of maternity.  As the style becomes slowly hackneyed by the system, it’s a nice ray of hope that someone can still get it right with a story built around three strong female characters and hard-hitting situations.

As Karen (Annette Bening) prepares herself for the imminent death of her mother, she can’t help but wonder what has become of the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 14.  As she and her mother were never particularly close, she finds herself overcome by guilt and wistfulness, wishing she could have the time back to repair the mother-daughter relationship.  It doesn’t help things that Karen discovers post mortem her mother found the daughter of their Hispanic maid to be more like her child.

Then, there’s Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), whose hard-knock childhood has led her to be a family-spiting woman driven only by rationalism and furthering her career.  Her life is exactly as she wants it to be: unsentimental and free of unnecessary relationships.  But love finds a way into her life in the form of her boss, Paul (Samuel L. Jackson), and she soon finds that what she avoided for so long arrives on her doorstep.

Dead-set on adopting a child, infertile Lucy (Kerry Washington) has her mind on nothing else but becoming a mother.  Desperate to feel that maternal bond, she lets her marriage fall by the wayside in the mere hope that Ray (Shareeka Epps) will give her the child inside her womb.  The need to be a mother ultimately drives her to emotional extremes that alarm her friends and family.

Bening, Watts, and Washington all turn in performances so emotionally charged that it stings.  They bring so much passion and feeling to the project, and it exudes from the screen like a bright beam of light.  But it’s Garcia’s script, so thoughtful, beautiful, and heartbreaking that “Mother and Child” makes for one emotionally wrenching watch.  Providing three distinct takes on what it means to be a mother, it’s a deeply moving moviewatching experience – even sitting on a couch. A-