Glenn Close plays Albert Nobbs, a woman posing as a man working as a waiter in a hotel. In the beginning, I found the movie interesting as it reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey. There was a wonderful period feel and a host of colorful characters with saucy behind the scenes gossip. Close, as Albert, looked sufficiently male, but also had the stiff unnatural look of heavy makeup. (AKA a Mrs. Doubtfire vibe.) But since the character lived such a repressed and rigid life, the stiffness seemed to blend. Albert’s life is roughly knocked for a loop when he comes across Janet McTeer’s Hubert, another woman living as a man. When Hubert confesses he’s married to a woman, Albert becomes obsessed with doing the same. And here’s where I got a little confused.
Hubert is clearly in love with the woman he resides with and it’s clear they share the same bed. While they use the premise of companionship often, (as in ‘we were both lonely,’) this was no ordinary ‘friendship.’ But nothing in Albert’s backstory or current story suggests he is gay. Yes, he’s very lonely and longing for companionship, but why does he become so obsessed with specifically wanting a wife? And his choice for wife is a young, pretty, very straight and very sexually active Helen, a woman who makes it clear she isn’t interested in him (but has no problem asking for and accepting his gifts.) All I could think, honestly, was that Albert had been acting as a man so long he couldn’t think straight anymore AND possibly someone once smacked him hard in the head with an iron.
I got so paranoid midway thinking Helen’s true boyfriend, the troubled and sleazy Joe, was going to find and make off with Albert’s money (which he kept hidden under a floorboard in his room,) that more than once I was tempted to fast forward just to get that out of the way. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Although the story sort of floundered about with Albert’s attempts to court Helen and fast forwarding would have spared me a bit of boredom. I just didn’t get that part. Didn’t get it at all. And the ending was pretty bad (disappointing, pointless, wasted) in my eyes.
There were some very good scenes in this, dispersed between the grayish matter, and they all seemed to feature Janet McTeer. Her Hubert commanded your attention when he was on the screen with his tall and attractive presence. Life seemed to exude from him in contrast to the pasty, stiff-faced Albert. And in the end, when we are left with a final impression of Hubert, I almost felt like the movie was more about him.
I bothered to take a peak at the reviews after mine was written, and I wasn’t surprised to find a 50/50 line of loved and hated. I guess it all depends on what you look for in a movie. If performance is your thing, it’s definitely worthy of your time. If story is your thing, save yourself the two hours.