{2jtab: Movie Review}

Albert Nobbs - Movie Review


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3 stars

Ever since playing the Albert Nobbs character in Simone Benmussa’s off-Broadway stage short back in 1982, the idea of bringing the story of a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland to the big screen has been a passion project for Glenn Close, who stars as the titular man-waiter.

Though heavily steeped in Edwardian period consciousness with elaborate costumes, priggish drama, and intricate decor, it’s the thread of contemporary themes that Close (with the accompaniment of John Banville) has stitched into her screenplay that gives the film a much-needed modern relevance and emotional gravitas. Wondering how a period drama could possibly relate to what’s going on in today’s world? Just listen to the “family values” and “same-sex marriage” rhetoric being currently bandied about in the ongoing Republican presidential debates.

Though totally aware of “his” gender – as well as the fact that the discovery of his ruse could forever send him to the streets in an economically depressed Dublin - it’s his true identity that Albert has lost contact with. When we first meet him, Albert has played his role as a male servant in Dublin’s ritzy Morrison’s Hotel for so long he has lost contact with who he truly is.  He answers “Albert” when asked his real name by a roommate who has just discovered his cover-up. “No, what’s your real name?” Head cocked, slightly confused, he again says “Albert.”

Set in the behind-the-scenes comings and goings of the hotel that caters to the high and mighty, we’re introduced to a rather lively cast of characters that helps brighten up the sometimes-drab tone of the film. The characters scurry about through the frame as they tend to daily assignments in the kitchen and serving parlor of the hotel. Albert’s stuff-shirted professionalism makes him a great waiter and tremendous benefit to Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), the hotel owner and social-climbing kiss-up. Her biggest customer (and occasional lover), the boisterous Dr. Holloran (Brendan Gleeson), is likely drinking himself to death, but enjoys the companionship of Mrs. Baker almost as much as he does his wife.

While Dr. Holloran offers himself to Albert as confidant, so too does the character of Hubert Page (Janet McTeer). After accidentally revealing his secret to Hubert, Albert is shocked to find out that Hubert too is harboring a similar mystery. The pair forge an oath of secrecy, and reach an understanding that further plays into another of the film’s themes having to do with we are who we are and if we’re lonely we should just go out and find someone to share our life with. Whether Albert succeeds or not is the story of the film.

When looking for the right person with whom to share his life, Nobbs is drawn to the character of Helen (Mia Wasikowska), a spunky, spirited maid working in the hotel. She’s someone with whom Nobbs believes he can share a better life, a partner to enjoy his dream of running a tobacco shop. There’s a hitch in Albert’s plan however, as Helen is more interested in Joe (Aaron Johnson) who encourages Helen to continue seeing Albert with the idea of helping her and Joe get out of the hotel and leave to America for a better life. Albert thinks he’s forging a loving relationship with Helen, while she’s using Albert’s kindness for other reasons.

This brings us to Close’s performance as Albert Nobbs upon, which the entire film rests. A less than spectacular turn here causes the entire film to crumble in a smoldering heap. Close manages to take the nearly cringe-worthy blandness of the main character, an odd, quiet little man with ill-fitting pants and shoes a couple sizes too big, and turn it into an endearing attribute that makes us fall in love with the overtly androgynous Mr. Nobbs. The result is a film that balances the razor-sharp edge of delight and discontent, but is sent over the top with the Oscar-worthy performance of Glenn Close.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Albert Nobbs - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language.
: R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language
Writer: Glenn Close; John Banville
Cast: Glenn Close; Glenn Close; Mia Wasikowska; Pauline Collins; Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Drama
A man with a secret. A woman with a dream.
Memorable Movie Quote: "He's such a kind little man!"
Liddell Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date: December 21, 2011 limited; January 27, 2012 wide
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 15, 2012

Synopsis: Award winning actress Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) plays a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men's clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making. Mia Wasikowska (Helen), Aaron Johnson (Joe) and Brendan Gleeson (Dr. Holloran) join a prestigious, international cast that includes Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker and Pauline Collins.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 stars

2 stars

Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 15, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.34:1
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A



  • With Actor Glenn Close and Director Rodrigo Garcia

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}