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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Movie Review: ALBERT NOBBS


"You don't have to be anything but who you are."
-- Hubert Page

Albert Nobbs is a 2011 drama directed by Rodrigo García that centers around a woman presenting herself as a man in order to make decent living wages in nineteenth-century Ireland. For years, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) has been passing herself off as a man while working her way towards opening her own tobacco shop, but during her time at Morrison's Hotel, her secret is unexpectedly learned by a visiting painter named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), who happens to hold the same secret. When Albert learns that Hubert has managed to secure a wife and has been living happily as a man for some time, she hopes to do the same. She starts to try to woo a young woman at Morrison's named Helen (Mia Wasikowska), who has fallen into a deep infatuation with a younger and much more hotheaded man named Joe (Aaron Johnson), who tries to talk Helen into taking some of Albert's money so that they can run off to America together.

I had heard a little bit about this film a few months ago, but now that it has been nominated for three Academy Awards, it has started to gain a little more public notice. Having garnered nominations for both Close and McTeer - as well as one for the makeup in the film - it's no surprise that those were the two I was most excited to see. I went into the viewing relatively blind, having not known that the movie itself had received rather mixed reviews despite its high-caliber cast and reportedly strong performances. Had I known this beforehand, I may not have been as eager to see Albert Nobbs as I had been originally.

Let's start with the acting, considering that's what's getting most of the buzz. While Close and McTeer are both very good in their respective roles, I did not see anything that was truly outstanding from either of them. Sure, they offer interesting characters, but there was never a moment that truly made them stand above the rest of the cast. In all honesty, I thought Wasikowska and Johnson happened to steal the show, bringing a lot more emotion and a sense of real-ness to their performances. Their characters seemed more realistic, and even though I wanted to hate both of them from time to time, they ultimately felt more believable than either the Albert or Hubert characters. If these two managed to score Oscar nominations for their roles, then I'd have to say that this year's field is mighty shallow indeed. We also get some small performances from the likes of Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, so be on the lookout for them as well.

I think the film's real issue, however, lies in its screenplay. While we're getting an interesting story that offers a clever narrative, it never once manages to pack the emotional punch that you're waiting for throughout the film. From the very outset, I had the feeling that there would be this huge moment of emotion and catharsis where everyone learned of Albert's true identity, and while that moment does come, it all seemed a tad bit anti-climactic. There seemed to be a lot of emotional moments in the film, but it's told in such a dry and humdrum manner than it was difficult for me to find reason to care about any of the characters. They're all rather one-dimensional - with the exception of McTeer's Hubert - and I found that to be a tad bit annoying after a while. Give me some character arc or at least a little bit of depth, ya know? Ultimately, every facet of the screenplay just seemed to fall flat, and it ultimately hurts the film in the long run.

As I said before, the Academy must have been scratching and searching for nominees for this year's awards if they managed to award Albert Nobbs with multiple nominations. While it's by no means the worst film I've seen this year, it definitely ranks as one of the more disappointing. At the end of the day, it's a boring tale of a woman who's pretending to be a man in order to make a few more bucks. And when a movie starts to get boring, it's going to lose its audience. And let me tell you: this one lost me pretty early.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: C
0.5 Thumbs Up

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