Thursday, February 2, 2012

Albert Nobbs [2011]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB () Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Albert Nobbs (directed by Rodrigo Garcia, screenplay by Glenn Close, John Banville and Gabriela Prekop) is a diminutive tale based on a story first presented over the course of chapters 45-53 of the early-20th century Irish author George Moore's novel A Story Teller's Holiday [1918] about a waiter named Albert Nobbs with a secret working at a higher-end hotel in Dublin at the end of the 19th century, the secret being that he was actually woman though presenting him/herself to the outside world (most notably to his/her employer) as a man.  The story was later reprinted under the title The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs in a collection of short stories by George Moore named Celibate Lives [1927].  The story was then adapted for as a one-person stage under the same title.  Glenn Close, who has received an 2012 Academy Awards nomination for her playing the role Albert Nobbs in the current film, received an Obie (Off Broadway) Award for playing Albert Nobbs in the stage production in 1982.

What to make of a film based on a short story that originally appeared as merely an episode in an early 20th century novel by an otherwise largely forgotten author perhaps best known for possibly influencing the far more famous Irish-born author, James Joyce?  Clearly the story has resonances with concerns of the present day.

Is it a great film?  Not especially.  It's primarily an art film.  As such, its appeal is certainly limited.  Nevertheless, it's a story that's interesting on a number of levels.  First, the story serves as reminder that even in the early 20th century (and if one thinks of Oscar Wilde during the Victorian Era) questions regarding sexuality and gender roles were not completely buried.  Second, the story/film reminds readers/viewers of a robust artistic/literary tradition that has existed in Ireland for at least a century that has often flown in the face of  both sentimental and at times dismissive stereotypes portraying Ireland as a placid outpost of unquestioning, unreflective, 'yes man' Catholicism.  James Joyce, after all, has come to be considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century and his book Ulysses was voted as the most influential English language book of the 20th century.  In more recent years, with increased prosperity and the success of artists like Bono and actors like Liam Neeson, Ireland has become the home of an energetic youth oriented culture.

Indeed, I look forward to reading (and posting links to) reviews of this film coming from the various sectors of contemporary Irish society -- from its artistic/literary community (the film was screened to Irish Film and Television Academy members at a gala event in December 2011, and has since been nominated for sever 2012 IFTA awards), its youth culture (,, and yes, by one or another agency or office of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

I reiterate that Albert Nobbs (also starring Mia Wasikowka as one of the hotel's maids and eventually _something_ of a love interest to Albert Nobbs in the story) is not exactly a great film.  I do think that the primary complaint that a lot of young people (late-teens, young adults, I would not recommend the film to folks below high school age) will have in regards to the film would be that it is quite slow/boring (hey, it was written only a few years after the end of the Victorian Era ...).

Nevertheless, I do see the film as an invitation for readers of this blog to explore / discover through commentary written about the film and recent movies in general an Ireland that is perhaps far more energetic and vibrant than many would have previously thought.  And I do believe that St. Patrick, who indeed suffered much as a young adult and could be taken as a result as something of a patron to young adults, would be proud (I'm not talking here of this movie which is definitely still a "look back" or "backward looking," but rather of the cultural engine that Ireland has become over this past generation often led by its young).


According to the Irish Times (3 Feb 2012), Albert Nobbs will be shown at the 10th Annual Dublin International Film Festival which will run between Feb 16-26, 2012.

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1 comment:

  1. I thought McTeer was even better than Close here. I liked the beginning of the movie - it reminded me of "Downtown Abby", with all the help in the house and their conversations in the kitchen. I thought the movie was a bit too messy and too much focus went to Helen and her issues with her boyfriend. I thought it was quite boring and not worthy of the performances. Good review Dennis.