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IN SHORT: Statue noms for Glenn Close and Janet McTeer . . . if life were fair. [Rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language. 113 minutes]
19th century Ireland. You work or you starve to death. That's for the men. The women are expected to raise a large brood and manage not to starve to death assuming that the Head of House happens to have a job.Many didn't. Such conditions spurred thousand of Irish to emigrate to the USA in the 19th century. This is not that story.
Albert Nobbs is a story of a woman who did not find an impoverished Head of Household to put her in her god-given place. Albert Nobbs is the story of a woman dons men's clothing and passes for a man -- it is a matter of survival -- in order to work, as a waiter, at Morrison's Hotel. Morrison's is, in modern terms, more like a residential house for the more affluent person, like the Viscount Yarrell (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the usually close to drunk Doctor Holloran (Brendan Gleeson). Thirty years on, Albert (Glenn Close) has passed for a man for so long that, perhaps, she has begun to think like one.
Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) runs the hotel in which Albert has scrimped and saved, hiding his savings under a floorboard in her quarters, should have enough money that, in perhaps six months, he should have saved £600 and be able to purchase her own business. Albert has, actually, found an empty shop, with two counters. One could be used for tobacco and things, he thinks. One for sweetmeats. And there is a door in the back leading to a park. Albert discusses the situation with Dr. Holloran, who thinks Albert is considering taking a wife -- the woman who would serve at the shoppe's counter -- and congratulates him.
The situation is awkward for, indeed, Albert finds himself attracted to the hotel maid Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Perhaps Albert is seeking a business partner for a shop "he" wishes to open. Or maybe something more? Helen's boyfriend Joe (Aaron Johnson) encourages the friendship as a way to get whiskey and chocolates out of the "suitor." Joe dreams of America. Perhaps Helen can screw a couple of quid out of Nobbs to pay for the passage.
Do not think too much. It only reads confusing.
We haven't even gotten to the new "boiler man," Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), a Mr. Fix-it type who has all the eyes of the female staff locked on him. Mr. Page could have the run of the place had she not had a wife of her own. That would be Cathleen (Bronagh Gallagher) and, no, we haven't mis-typed anything. Once Albert uncovers the Page "situation," Nobbs is resolute to find a Kathleen of her own. His own. Whatever . . . Albert wants a wife.
Yes, "Albert" gets confused, sexually. Remember this is the 19th century. There is no "L" word. Just identity confusion that comes with working thirty plus years in drag. [This review is a lot more confusing to read than Albert Nobbs is to watch on screen. Truth]
When one of the household help takes ill in the midst of a typhoid epidemic, the Doctor gives instructions -- The police shut the doors. Residents flee.The staff are quarantined inside the hotel while outside, hundreds die. Nobbs survives but the hotel is finished. Nobbs seeks out Mr Page, the only person who "understands" his (her) situation. Page's wife died in the epidemic. Nobbs offers to fill Kathleen's place and, for the very first time, Nobbs dresses "appropriately".
Then things get really weird. Stop scratching your head. Everything makes perfect sense on the big screen. That's the sign of a great film. So, you now know the characters. You can hypothesze all you'd like but, for those who prefer watchng intelligent films, being that we're now approaching the Third Act, you're going to have to find out all that stuff by yourself.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Albert Nobbs, he would have paid . . .
9* means we think the film has Oscar etc. potential. It's just easier to start grouping 'em now, at the end of the year. For those keeping track, Close and McTeer should both get nominated. The script and direction and overall film should get nods, too.
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