A gender bending period piece spearheaded by star Glenn Close who spent decades trying to get the short story adapted to film. Close plays the titular straight-backed Butler who works in a fancy hotel in 19th century Ireland. It’s a time of snotty aristocrats and repressed homosexuals, a time when a woman would spend 30 years disguised as a man in order to make a living. Albert finds a friend in house painter Hubert (Janet McTeer), a fellow woman in disguise, and a possible partner in young hotel maid Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Hubert embodies the ideal life, married to a woman and secure in her sexuality, thus Albert is soon fantasizing about running a tobacco shop with her object of desire. Helen takes advantage of Albert’s good nature and deep savings as it becomes evident that a tragedy is in the cards.
Close gives an admirable performance in a film so sincere that it’s difficult to criticize. The emotions feel true and the conventions standard; expect broken hearts, swelling symphonies, and an Oscar win.
Albert Nobbs opens today at the Ritz Five.