Albert Nobbs, 2011, UK/Ireland/France/USA
Albert (Glenn Close) is a woman who has been living as a man for 30 years and saving to purchase a business of her own. She lives as a man in order to be financially independent without depending on a husband. She works as a waiter in a hotel, where she meets Hubert (Janet McTeer), a painter. Hubert discovers Albert’s secret and reveals one of her own: she is also a woman living as a man, and she has a wife, Cathleen (Bronagh Gallagher). Seeing Hubert and Cathleen living a happy life together, Albert decides that she wants to settle down with a wife and purchase a business together. She sets her sights on Helen (Mia Wasikowska), a maid in the hotel. Unfortunately for Albert, Helen is seeing Joe (Aaron Johnson), and her intentions towards Albert are not pure.
It was an interesting film, but I felt that Helen and Joe were fairly weak characters. They were not developed enough and Helen was characterized in a very wishy-washy fashion. Was the audience supposed to pity her or loathe her? Joe was not developed at all, and only served the purpose of the film’s “villain” and Albert’s rival for Helen’s affections.
I strongly preferred the interactions between Albert and Hubert, and I thought both Close and McTeer gave brilliant performances. McTeer should have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year. My heart broke for Albert throughout the film: she is clearly a person who has been damaged by circumstance. She’s socially inept, as could be seen by her interactions with Hubert and Helen, but this ineptitude has come as a result of a lifetime of hiding. It was tragic. Albert is also painfully naïve, which was another tragedy within the film. she believes that life will be better once she purchases his business, and that Helen will accept her for who she is, despite the fact that she is, in fact, a woman.
Hubert was also a very interesting character, having lived as a man and found love. Hubert seemed far better adjusted socially than Albert, and I would have liked to see more of her throughout the film. She was a very powerful character, despite McTeer’s relatively brief screen time.
I was a bit torn on the ending. It was awkward and a bit unexpected, but it was also immensely touching. I was suspecting the film would go in another direction, but I do think it was a satisfying ending that fit with the theme of the film. Abuse, and the lack of control and power women had in the 19th century are big themes in the film, and the ending reflected those ideas.