Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Movies

Review: Glenn Close's 'Albert Nobbs' a gender-bender pretender

Albert Nobbs (R) (113 min.) — The title character is a small, quiet man, with slicked ginger hair and thin, pale lips that may have never smiled. Albert Nobbs blends into backgrounds, as good butlers do, attentive yet unobtrusive, diligently working for an aristocratic hotel in 19th century Ireland. Except for a secret, Albert is a bit of a bore, like the movie director Rodrigo Garcia made about him.

You see, he is a she, a woman who for 30 years has posed as a man because that was the only way to land a good job in her male-dominated era. Albert offers a spotlight movie role for Glenn Close, who hasn't had one lately and now has an Oscar nomination to show for it. But like most roles involving drag, it's a thespian stunt from a recognizable talent, and no degree of marvelous in its execution can get past that distraction.

Close also co-wrote the screenplay, based on a stage play she first performed years ago, so the material is dear to her heart. Her devotion and experience with Albert is evident in each minute flicker of expression and delicately tapped emotion. But this isn't a character to build an entire movie around. Garcia appears to realize that, filling much of the time with Upstairs Downstairs-style drama contrasting the have and have-nots and including another character who practically yanks the movie out from under Close.

That would be Oscar nominee Janet McTeer as Hubert Page, a hotel guest who like Albert is a woman passing as a man. McTeer's disguise is easier to see through than Close's — a fake nose and mannish fashion is the extent of her cosmetic change. But the role is far more interesting, more expressive of its sexual repression and resignation to the way things are. It's a full-blooded character that McTeer makes the most credible in the film.

Woven into this pedestrian tale is Albert's dream of opening a tobacco shop, fully blending into society as a man. The plan can work with a wife at his side, and the maid Helen (Mia Wasikowska, sort of a Gwyneth Paltrow lite) strikes his fancy as a suitable mate. Complications arise: Helen loves a rakish man (Aaron Johnson), pushing her to exploit Albert's generosity, and a typhoid fever epidemic throws everything off course. It's inevitable that Albert and Helen won't marry, but the movie takes its sweet time confirming it.

Garcia's production is as starchy as Albert's collars and as humorless as his masquerade. The subject matter begs something to connect modern audiences with the movie's unerring period design and principles. Close's performance is technically perfect and emotionally pinched, which is exactly what her role calls for, but it doesn't make a compelling movie. C (Veterans 24 in Tampa, BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg)

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

Comments
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has everything The Force Awakens was missing

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has everything The Force Awakens was missing

When The Force Awakens landed two years ago, it was everything Star Wars fans wanted yet not entirely what we needed. It was a rousing tribute missing its own vision, introducing new characters and crises hinting at old ones. Star Wars: The Last Jed...
Updated: 9 hours ago
13 new movies you have to see over the holiday season

13 new movies you have to see over the holiday season

Hollywood has enough movies left to get everyone through the holidays plus any New Year’s hangover. Many are aiming for awards glory, a few are just here for the party. The really serious contenders won’t open nationwide until early 2018...
Published: 12/12/17
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era fairytale "The Shape of Water" swam away with a leading seven nominations from the Golden Globes, while the HBO drama "Big Little Lies" led television nominees with six nods. In what’s being viewed as a wide-open Osc...
Published: 12/11/17
Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Hollywood is backloading December, waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to bring moviegoers back to multiplexes. After no major releases last week, only James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is making any new impression at box offices this weekend. (Cli...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Olaf is being let go: Olaf short is being dropped from Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’

Winter is still weeks away but everyone’s favorite snowman is already melting from view.In a cruel twist on Frozen’s showstopper, Olaf is being let go.Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the 21-minute animated "short" preceding Disney-Pixar’s Coco in theaters w...
Published: 12/05/17
‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

‘The Disaster Artist’ takes us inside ‘The Room’ as it notoriously happened

James Franco found a kooky, kindred spirit in Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist whose 2003 cine-trocity The Room is hailed as one of the worst movies ever.Like Wiseau, Franco can be accused of stretching his talent way too far. Unlike Wiseau, Franco ...
Published: 12/04/17
That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

For a few bewildering days, R. Presley Stephens thought his Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival would welcome a notorious celebrity.The fourth annual shoestring cinema showcase runs Thursday through Sunday at Britton 8 Theater, 3938 S Dale Mabry High...
Updated: 9 hours ago
What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

NOW IN THEATERS: COCO Disney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good ...
Updated one month ago
If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

If you’re going to see ‘A Christmas Carol’ redo, make it ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

The last thing this world needs is another rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, likely the most remade, reimagined and ripped off literary property ever. At the same time, the world would be poorer without seeing Ebenezer Scrooge i...
Updated one month ago