The title character of “Albert Nobbs” is described as “the strangest an I ever met,” which makes sense because he’s actually a woman. Glenn Close, in an Academy Award nominated role, plays a woman who escaped a life of poverty by dressing as a man and taking a job at Morrison’s Hotel in 19th century Dublin.
When Albert meets the house painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), another woman living in drag and married to a woman, he is encouraged to escape the shackles of conservative Ireland and live a happy life. Her fatal attraction is Helen () a young maid who has eyes for the handsome new handy-man Joe Macken (Aaron Johnson).
Close played the part of the fastidious butler Nobbs on stage thirty years ago and one can only imagine that the intervening years have deepened the performance. She embodies not only the physicality of the man, but the spirit as well. It’s a stunner of a performance, equally ingrained with repression, gentleness and secrecy.
Unfortunately the towering performances from Close and McTeer are blunted somewhat by a script that isn’t as interesting as the character study that is at the center of it.
It stumbles when it tries to address the larger issue of female poverty in a male dominated society and simply takes too long to make any point at all.
“Albert Nobbs” is a noble failure, a movie with great performances that wants to be important, but is done in by a shallow script.