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“Albert Nobbs”: Glenn Close, But No Cigar?

December 28, 2011

Glenn Close enjoyed a remarkable run of movies in the ’80s, earning Oscar nominations five times in only seven years (for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons). Since then, her strongest work has been on the small screen (Damages, The Shield, the Sarah Plain and Tall TV-movies), where actresses of a certain age thrive these days. Perhaps it says something about the lack of meaty cinematic roles for older women that Close finds herself a likely Oscar contender for the first time in more than 20 years for playing a man. Or, more accurately, a woman pretending to be a man in Albert Nobbs.

And what a performance it is! With a mere darting of the eyes, Close conveys a lifetime of gender confusion as the titular 19th-century Irish waiter, who’s been masquerading as a man for so long that even he—er, she—isn’t sure what his—er, her—real name is. When Albert meets another female-to-male cross-dresser, a butch house painter named Hubert (Janet McTeer, in an equally award-worthy turn) who happily lives with a wife, the profoundly deferential servant’s long-repressed domestic fantasy is unleashed, with tragicomic results.

Therein lies the problem with Albert Nobbs: He fixates on a flirty coworker, Helen, irritatingly played by Mia Wasikowska, who’s already servicing another member of the staff, a rogue named Joe (Kick-Ass‘ charismastic Aaron Johnson). Honestly, I don’t get what the big deal is about Wasikowska—she was “all right in The Kids Are All Right“—as my girlfriend put it—but she’s not interesting or attractive enough to merit all the attention paid to her. Yet Nobbs director Rodrigo Garcia, who does achingly subtle work here, previously collaborated with her on HBO’s In Treatment, so he must see something in her that I don’t.

The rest of the supporting cast, including former Oscar nominees Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) as well as The Guard‘s great Brendan Gleeson and a somewhat underutilized Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, is stellar. But the movie belongs to Close and McTeer—who will share the screen again in the upcoming fifth and final season of Damages. Will either one win an Oscar? Probably not, as the Academy seems more likely to lean in the direction of The Iron Lady‘s Meryl Streep (who hasn’t won since 1982’s Sophie’s Choice) and/or the women of The Help—Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer or Jessica Chastain. Ironically, Close and McTeer might have a better shot at Best Actor or Supporting Actor, where the field is wide-open. If only Nobbs‘ stars had knobs…

Will you be seeing Albert Nobbs? And what’s your favorite Glenn Close movie?

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8 Comments
  1. Matt Stewart permalink

    I will definitely be seeing Albert Nobbs when I get the chance. The thing about Close for me though is I always hear people around me comparing her to Meryl Streep, who I think is the most talented actress in history.

    Still, Close is undeniably a fantastic actress, but unfortunately if she gets the nod it’s going to be left behind by Streep in The Iron Lady and Davis in The Help.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Amazingly, Close has never lost head-to-head for the Oscar to Streep. When Streep won Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice in 83, Close was nominated in Supporting Actress for Garp. They were both nominated (and lost) for Best Actress in 88, for Dangerous Liaisons and Ironweed. And when they both appeared in Evening and House of the Spirits, neither one was nominated!

      • Matt Stewart permalink

        Interesting, I never knew that! Hopefully we will see a head to head battle this year!

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