Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
The thing about passion projects is that they’re particularly personal to whoever is behind it. And the worry there is that they might not translate into material anyone else is interested in. Such is the case with Glenn Close’s involvement in the film Albert Nobbs. Close played the title role in the 1982 stage production of the story, netting her an OBIE award, and she’s essentially been trying to get this on film ever since (in a much more concentrated fashion in the last 10 years).
Based on a short story by George Moore, the time period is the late 1800s and Albert is actually a woman (shock) masquerading as a man in order to earn a better living. There are personal reasons that led to the transformation and a not so subtle lesbian subtext, especially after meeting another woman doing the same thing, but all of that doesn’t matter.
Why not, you ask? Because Albert Nobbs is boring. Actually, I take that back, Nobbs is spelled with two b’s: Albert Nobbs is boring BORING. It’s the cinematic equivalent of staring at a wall. Sure, Brendan Gleeson does his best to inject some life into a few scenes but there’s only so much he can do given the script and direction … and it’s not enough.
And as for all of the potential awards talk for Close’s performance, just shut up. She’s a very talented actress but watching her adopt a laughably bad deep voice and look like a flesh-colored version of Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man is an uphill struggle to resist the urge to leave the theater. It’s easier to see how this might have worked on-stage, as it’s a very static production having only a few locations, and trying to suspend disbelief about women playing men works better at a distance. Asking people to pay $62 to sit in uncomfortable movie seats is just cruel.
Compounding things is a story that probably made a great deal of sense as a short story. Expanding it for a feature film (Close also co-wrote the script and was an executive producer) simply did not work. The characters are largely uninteresting, it takes FOREVER to get towards anything worth exploring, and even then it’s all like some Saturday afternoon Masterpiece Theater production – only even more passive if that’s possible.
And if it hasn’t sunk in just how boring this project is, the most exciting thing to happen during the entire screening was that the projectionist had made an error splicing together two of the middle reels, causing the change between them to drop the film out of frame. While completely annoying and unprofessional, that mistake at least created a slight amount of energy, which is far more than can be said for the movie itself.
Trying to meticulously dissect everything that made the film so mind-numbingly bland is a waste of my time writing the review and yours in reading it. Avoid Albert Nobbs like the theater is full of angry, hungry, and diseased Bengal tigers. The only people who should be watching this are the criminally insane and terrorists … oh, and anyone suffering from insomnia.
Alfred Nobbs is rated R for some sexuality, brief nudity and language