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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Albert Nobbs | Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Pauline Collins, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Albert Nobbs | Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Pauline Collins, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson | Review

Don’t think cross-dresser or transvestite; think survival.  In 19th century Ireland, hotel butler Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) finds it much easier and safer to live as a manservant.

Although born a woman, Nobbs learned early about that gender’s vulnerability after an assault and has decided to assume the identity of a man ever since.  It is a repressive age with few opportunities for working-class women (wife, servant, prostitute cover pretty much everything).

Hotel owner Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) considers Nobbs her right hand man, but events take and unusual turn when she hires two new men to work for her.

Nobbs’ quiet world is disrupted when housepainter Hubert (Janet McTeer) also a woman living as a man, discovers his secret.  Nobbs’ other secret involves housemaid Helen (Mia Wasikowska) whom he loves secretly, but who is carrying on an affair with newly hired, conniving Joe (Aaron Johnson).

Helen only gives Nobbs the time of day because he spends money on her.  She doesn’t know he is saving for the day he can marry her and own his own business, a little smoke shop.

Hubert shows Nobbs that this can be done, because he’s done it; married a woman, has a home and a business.  Nobbs visits Hubert and the two underground females try a day at the beach dressed as women, but the ruse is as ill-fitting as their dresses.

Daily life at the hotel is a study in contrasts, with upper-class patrons being pampered despite their bad behavior by ever-vigilante servants.  Nobbs patiently performs his duties and stashes his wages in a secret box, dreaming of the day he is able to become a business owner with Helen by his side.

Unfortunately, this ideal existence only lives in Nobbs’ mind.  In rapid succession, Joe and Helen’s relationship turns violent, Hubert experiences a tragedy, and plans on all fronts go awry.

Albert Nobbs depicts desperate acts by desperate women, deeply repressed and violated, but still hoping for love in a world full of condemnation but not opportunity.

Glenn Close has the sharp, angular features to pull off the role, along with vocal skill and mannerisms (no pun intended with the “man” in mannerisms).  Close also expresses a vortex of sadness in her expressive eyes that speaks to Nobbs’ existence as just that; existence without a true life attached.

The marvelous Janet McTeer gives a virtuoso performance as Hubert the painter, actually exuding a charisma that works in both genders.  Pauline Collins lends a pseudo-aristocratic air to Mrs. Baker’s character, as once kindly and accommodating, but not above questionable behavior herself.  Mia Wasikowska’s Helen, like Williams’ Blanche Du Bois, is almost totally dependent on the kindness of strangers, simultaneously smart and dumb in her actions.

Director Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child) explores the internal workings of women who chose an alternative external appearance and lets them speak for themselves.  He doesn’t tell the viewer what they’re supposed to think.  He just offers them the tale, riddled with conflict and taboo as it is, with an invitation to draw their own conclusions.

Oscar-nominated Glenn Close co-wrote the script with novelist John Banville, (The Book of Evidence) adapting it from an Irish short story by George Moore that also had a run as an off-Broadway play.  The script highlights Close’s fearlessness and range as an actress.

Man, that woman’s good.

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