Glenn Close and Rodrigo Garcia‘s Albert Nobbs screened last night at Telluride’s Galaxy theatre to, it must be said, a somewhat muted reaction. With the exception, I should add, of Janet McTeer‘s brilliant supporting performance as Hubert, a woman pretending to be a man.
Nobbs came to Telluride with the advance buzz being that Close might be delivering an Oscar-calibre performance. Close is striking, no question — she’s playing a sad, curious inhabitant of a long-ago era in a granular, highly concentrated way — but McTeer’s performance has the dignity, heart and heat.
Close’s Nobbs, a 19th Century Dublin waiter living her life as a male for both economic and emotional reasons, is a very odd bird. Porcelain, cautious, corseted and buttoned-down to a fare-thee-well. And flagrantly asexual. For Nobbs the gender facade is all — hiding who she is an absolute. This obviously renders her as a metaphor for repression, but Nobbs is so primly Victorian that she hasn’t the first clue about anything remotely emotional and/or sensual. She sees marriage as an opportunity for companionship and mutual economic endeavor.
So there’s really nothing in the character to relate to from a 2011 perspective other than the sad fact that she’s some kind of ultimate closet case. It’s not enough to pull and hold you in. Nobbs wants a female wife, but is so uninvested in the universal human longing for love and laughter and whatever else makes your day. She’s interested primarily — only — in security and saving her money and perhaps one day owning a tobacconist shop. More on this later– have to dash up to an interview.
Albert Nobbs is slated for a limited release sometime in December.