When Glenn Close starred in the 1982 stage production of ‘Albert Nobbs’, few could have predicted that twenty nine years later the economic ruin of 1900 Ireland would be a reality for many. For this reason the film’s major theme of livelihood and life being one in the same will resonate. For the central characters in the story, being an ideal worker is directly related to survival. This creates a touching narrative that seeps into the modern subconscious.
The story focuses on Albert’s isolation and loneliness while she lives life as a man. In doing so she is able to work as a waiter and avoid the oppressive forces that so tightly bind women. Touchingly, she has spent years saving her money with the dream of opening a small cigar shop. Her plan becomes complicated when she is found out by Herbert (the incredible Janet McTeer), a house painter who is also secretly a female. Albert learns that Herbert has a wife and wishes to be married as well. She begins courting Helen (Mia Wasikoska), a beautiful hotel maid. Unbeknownst to her, Helen and her lover Joe (Aaron Johnson) see an opportunity in returning Albert’s affections. Here in lies one of the film’s major strengths. Even the so called villains of the piece manage to generate a degree of empathy. Joe’s horrific scars and the fact that he can barely write his own name prevent him from being one dimensional while Helen’s desire to be loved is achingly authentic.
By now, awards season buzz had already given away that Close is nothing short of a revelation. Her passion for the small budget project, which she also produced and co-wrote, manifests itself in each scene. Her portrayal is part of a larger message that the rich, even when they take the form of a cross-dressing Jonathan Reese Meyers, are far less interesting than those who struggle.
DVD Extras : Commentary, which is worth a spin, and some deleted scenes.