(out of 5)
Albert Nobbs is the perfect servant: as head waiter of Morrison’s Hotel in late 19th century Dublin, he knows his duties to perfection, saves his pennies under the floorboards, and plans for the day that he can run his own business. When painter Hubert Page is hired to redo a few of the rooms at the establishment, Albert’s deep and strange secret is revealed: Albert is actually a woman (played by Glenn Close) and has been masquerading in a suit all these years in order to make a living. Imagine his surprise when Hubert (Janet McTeer) reveals himself to be under the same guise. Through witnessing his new friend’s relationship with his wife (a lovely Bronagh Gallagher) and his increasing affection for the feistiest of the hotel’s maids (Mia Wasikowska), Albert begins to put his plans for the future into full gear, but there are obstacles to be removed from the path, including a rival suitor in handsome young Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Graced with superb acting and some incredibly moving scenes, this film based on the novella by George Moore never quite reaches its full potential. Close gives her best film performance in ages, while McTeer has never been more riveting, but the story only allows us to see who Albert is, not what he learns from anything around him: whether it is the chance to make more of himself or the opportunity to learn the nature of love (and whether or not Wasikowska is a figure of his plans or an actual experience of his heart) is never fully divulged, there is no growth for this character before an abrupt ending that does a terrible job of capping off a story that could have been much more endearing (and, at times, as when Close beautifully delivers a monologue about where she came from and why she began to don a suit, it truly is). Still, it features some unforgettable moments (as when the two main characters get in “drag”) and the ensemble cast, which also includes Pauline Collins, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson and Phyllida Law, is wonderful.
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Cinematography by Michael McDonough
Music by Brian Byrne
Production Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein
Costume Design by Pierre-Yves Gayraud
Film Editing by Steven Weisberg