Albert Nobbs (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Best Actress (Glenn Close), Supporting Actress (Janel McTeer), and Makeup (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston, Matthew W. Mungle).
Watched October 7, 2012.
In a winter setting in Dublin, a small group of maids and waiters serve an assortment of guests while watched carefully by the mistress of the house. Among them is a waiter who from the beginning seems to have an uncanny talent at his trade, which is certainly commented on multiple times within the opening scene. A man of small stature, he is the utmost of propriety, quiet and polite, even among his coworkers. It is obvious that he has a secret, this Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close). At first we have reason to believe that it is only his stash of money underneath the floorboards, but when a certain Hubert Page (Janel McTeer) has to stay in his room for a night, we find out that he is hiding something much bigger.
Albert Nobbs is actually a woman. Her guardian passed away when she was 14. After being gang raped by five men, she sought work at a nearby party that was short staffed. She got her hands on a second hand suit, disguised herself as a man, and never turned back. As an adult, Albert is not only quiet and polite, but fairly naive of modern gender roles and sexuality. His only aim is to save enough money to buy his own business, but after meeting Mr. Page, things change. Mr. Page, it turns out, is also a woman dressed as a man, but instead of living a life of solitude, Page is married–to a woman. Completely dumbfounded, Nobbs begins to dream of having a wife of his own. Unlike one might presume, he views it purely as a business transaction–an ideal of having a wife sitting by the fire, and working the counter at the shop. He sets his sights on the prettiest maid, Helen (Mia Wasikowska), but unfortunately she is deeply in love with the new handyman, Joe.
I have no hesitation in saying that Albert Nobbs has not been one of my favourite films so far. I am a huge fan of BBC, Downton Abbey, and other British shows, and this certainly would fall into a similar category. Its cinematography, characterization, and pace all reflect that of a BBC made for TV movie. Generally something that I enjoy a lot, especially when it is set in the winter months, I was incredibly bored by the pace and the limited, transparent plot twists.
Much of the appeal for this film was certainly Close and McTeer, two wonderful actresses playing women who both dress and pass as men. I’m not sure if i agree with the nomination for makeup, but I do understand it. The film is not done in an experimental style, but is certainly experimenting with gender roles in early English culture. It is a sad world indeed when women must disguise themselves as men to be able to fend for themselves and create a good life beyond being a maid. Poor Helen discovers the tragedy of her gender in her career and unmarried motherhood. That is a fate that both Nobbs and Page did not want for themselves.
Albert Nobbs is not something I would recommend on most occasions. It’s intriguing on some level, with a good Christmas feel, but depressing. If the plot is simply seen as a woman dressed as a man hopelessly chasing another woman who is in love with another man, don’t watch it. However, if your interest was piqued by the gender comments, it might be a good fit for you.