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Albert Nobbs

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					“Albert Nobbs”a much-honored 2011 social issue drama of 113 minutes is
set in late 19th century Dublin, Ireland. It tells the tale of the
little man who never was. “Albert Nobbs” is a waiter in a pricey
hotel in late Victorian times. His customers see him as a kind, fussy
little man, but he’s not. He’s a woman living as a man because the
male waiters make much more money than the women maids, and can hope
even to be able to save enough so as to retire to a little shop of some
sort – Albert thinks a tobacconist for him. And waiters don’t have to
beat laundry in the cold and snow, as the maids must. The movie is based
upon a novella by Irish author George Moore. Its title role is played
by Glenn Close, an Oscar Best Actress winner for THE LION IN WINTER,
giving a “powerhouse performance” here according to the New York Post.
Close recreates her 1982 stage role here; I understand it took her all
the intervening decades to manage to get this work filmed. At any rate,
she was also nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her work in this
film.

Nobbs has spent decades working as a man, and is reaching the point
where he thinks he can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though he
is not sure how to strategize it. He’s biding his time. Then two men
arrive at the hotel at roughly the same time. Handsome strapping
handyman Joe Machin, played by Aaron Johnson, NOWHERE BOY. And handsome
swaggering housepainter Hubert Page, played by esteemed actress, Janet
McTeer, (TUMBLEWEEDS), also passing as a man, and also Oscar nominated
as Best Supporting Actress for her work here. Nobbs and the painter
share their secrets, and Nobbs discovers that the latter is married to a
lively, wage-earning seamstress. The waiter gets ideas: perhaps there
might be a wife in his future too. Unfortunately, he turns his
attention to the flighty hotel maid Helen Dawes, played by independent
film darling Mia Wasikowska, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, JANE EYRE. But Helen
is much taken by, and then pregnant by, Joe.Machin. However, Machin
urges her to string Nobbs along, as there must be much-needed money
somewhere in Nobbs’ vicinity. Suddenly we see Nobbs’ tender side.
But he is jeopardizing himself, and we suspect things will not end well
for him.

There’s loads of highly prestigious international talent in front of
and behind the camera in this outstanding indie production. The
screenplay was written by Close, and Booker Award winning Irish author
John Banville (THE SEA). Direction is by Rodrigo Garcia, (MOTHER AND
CHILD).who does specialize in female-centric scenarios. And, in front
of the camera, my, oh my. So many Oscar nominees/winners, once very
popular/popular now. That hunk Jonathan Rhys Meyers (THE TUDORS) as
Viscount Yarrell. Pauline Collins, long-ago flavor of the month for
UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, SHIRLEY VALENTINE, as Mrs. Margaret ‘Madge’
Baker, owner of the hotel. Brenda Fricker, Oscar winner for MY LEFT
FOOT, as Polly, the cook. Brendan Gleeson (IN BRUGES) as Dr. Halloran.
Phyllida Law (RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY) as Mrs. Cavendish. Maria Doyle
Kennedy (DOWNTON ABBEY, THE TUDORS) as Mary, a maid. Bronagh Gallagher
as Cathleen, Hugh’s wife. Angeline Ball as Mrs. Gilligan. And the
latter three women, folks, were the three girl backup singers in THE
COMMITMENTS, here together again.

The production comes off as a little stagey; still, I thought it did an
excellent job of giving us Dublin, as it might have appeared then, in
its seasons, snow-bound winter, blooming spring, and reflective fall.
We are never given any clue as to Nobbs’ actual sexual orientation; he
comes off as asexual, rather closed-off, and hard to warm to. I saw a
production of this as a play in Trinity College, Dublin, in 1980, and
believe the treatment I saw made more explicit the fact that Nobbs spent
his/her entire adult life with her breasts bound, passing for a man, out
of economic necessity. I do wish the film had underlined its economic
underpinnings more. Still, it’s there, between the lines in many
scenes: a powerful and memorable message.

				
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posted:9/14/2012
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