A passion project for Glenn Close for many years, her performance here is utterly captivating. The film also has a slow burning subtlety to it that is strangely inviting. But the plot is slim and it veers into creepy, then ridiculously melodramatic far too quickly after a patient start. As good as Close is, though, she's upstaged by Janet McAteer who deserved more screentime.
Close is a woman who has masqueraded as a man for many years, working as a butler in a rundown Dublin hotel in the 19th century. When she's told that she'll be rooming with a recently hired, seemingly masculine painter (actually played by Janet McAteer), she worries that her true gender will be found out - which it promptly is. But she's told her secret is safe, as the struggling hotel hires another new recruit - the actually very manly Joe (Johnson) - who quickly begins a relationship with naive maid Helen (the always excellent Wasikowska).
While certainly a very interesting character piece on the surface, Albert Nobbs begins a little too stoically and then descends into the melodramatic all too quickly. It did need to do something to take it out of a comfortable second gear, but the underlining story of the woman forced to dress as a man simply to work is already tragic enough. Close is obviously incredibly passionate about the project, having played the same role on Broadway a couple of decades ago, and as a showcase for her undeniable talents it certainly is worth seeing. She was nominated for an Oscar for a reason, as was Janet McAteer - who is superb.
Recognisable Irish faces are used to sporadic effect. Gleeson offers his usual imposing presence in a small enough role, while other local faces pop up in smaller, but relatively substantial roles. Accent wise everyone does fairly sterling work, with the main leads all doing a great job; being that this isn’t an Irish director or local core cast, it's a surprising plus.
Not without its moments, the performances are great, but the plot turns a little difficult to swallow.
Story by Mike Sheridan | 17:08 | Wednesday 22nd August 2012 | DVD review
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