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With: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson, Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker, Mark Williams, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Pauline Collins, Bronagh Gallagher, John Light, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Annie Starke
Written by: Glenn Close, John Banville, Gabriella Prekop, based on a short story by George Moore
Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 113
Date: 09/02/2011

Albert Nobbs (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Man Trap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the 1980s, Glenn Close was nominated five times for an Oscar (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, and Dangerous Liaisons) and never won. With this movie, she has cooked up a formula irresistible to the Oscar voters: she's playing in drag as a man (Hilary Swank won for this reason for Boys Don't Cry in 1999) and also performing with an Irish accent. However, she is a skilled actress and her performance is quite touching, as is that of Janet McTeer, who also plays in drag.

Albert Nobbs (Close) is a quiet little waiter in a fancy hotel in Ireland, circa the 19th century. He has learned to stay in the background, and for good reason: he's really a woman. But when another woman masquerading as a man, Hubert Page (McTeer) comes by the hotel to do some repairs, "Albert" is fascinated. She becomes intrigued by the idea of a richer life and begins to formulate a plan to use her life savings to open a tobacco shop. Her plans also include marrying the pretty young Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska). But unfortunately, Helen has a secret boyfriend who is intent on milking Albert for all he's worth.

The movie uses some very tired old plot devices to give our character something to do; it relies on the characters being terribly naïve while the audience is two jumps ahead; the story really doesn't work very well. But when Close simply has something to think about or react to, she's magnetic. The director, Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Mother and Child), has shown an impeccable talent for women's pictures, and his sensitivity to Albert's plight is tangible.
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