The “good acting but bad movie” trend continues with Rodrigo Garcia’s period drama “Albert Nobbs.”
Without star Glenn Close, who gives a truly transcendent performance, the sluggishly paced new motion picture would likely have wound up on television as one of those easily disregarded cable miniseries that you only hear about during the Golden Globe Awards – or worse, an installment of PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater.”
In “Albert Nobbs,” Close plays the titular character – a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. See, in that time and place, a woman with no husband or family – and without work – would face a bleak life of poverty and loneliness. So, a shy butler, “Albert” keeps to herself in order to keep his secret and therefore escape such a fate.
When handsome painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) arrives at the hotel, “Albert” is inspired to try and escape the false life she has created for herself. She gathers her nerves to court the beautiful, saucy young maid Helen (Mia Wasikowska) in whom she thinks she has found a soul mate. However, Helen’s eye is on a new arrival – handsome new handyman Joe (Aaron Johnson).
Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brenda Fricker and Pauline Collins also star in “Albert Nobbs,” which was directed by Rodrigo Garcia from a script that Close co-wrote with Man Booker prize winning novelist John Banville and Gabriella Prekop, adapted from a short story by Irish author George Moore.
The problem is that Close, Banville and Prekop fail to find enough material here to warrant the expansion from the short form and therefore help “Albert Nobbs” stand out from other upstairs/downstairs period pieces. That is to say the the pace of the motion picture is far too slow to ever engage a general audience.
Granted, fans of the genre will likely delight in the technical aspects of “Albert Nobbs” – such as the art direction, production design, makeup and costumes – and rightfully so. These qualities are carefully crafted to give the movie an incredibly authentic feel. However, they are wasted when the story is not up to par.
So is a simply outstanding performance from Close, who skillfully uses her eyes to relay the drastic desperation of her character’s soul. Needless to say, the extreme empathy that we feel for Albert essentially carries the film’s first act. However, as the story develops, we require much more from “Albert Nobbs.”
Unfortunately, the mediocre subplot in which Close’s character falls for Wasikowska’s character – who turns out to be unbelievably unlikable – does not meet said requirement. Nor does the entire existence of McTeer’s character, whose entry into “Albert Nobbs” marks its start down a path that is neither as thought-provoking nor as emotionally rich as its setup suggests.
“Albert Nobbs” (R – 113 minutes) is now playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.