Co-written, co-produced, and starring Glen Close, it’s hard to avoid feeling that ALBERT NOBBS is a mere vanity piece by the celebrated actress. It’s easy to dismiss the film as mere Oscar bait, a “showy” gender-bending presentation with the staged uglification that often bestows kudos upon actresses, be it in the form of distorted nose, frumpy serial killers, or in this case, a man named Nobbs not living up to the euphemism of his name.
Set in a Dublin luxury hotel, Nobbs has spent two decades living as a man in order to provide a better form of employment. When a sudden encounter with another person disguising their gender leads him to consider a new life with a new partner, things go tragically awry.
The cast does well to keep up the illusions required to remain believable. Close’s performance is quite fine, but there’s a few awkward YENTL-like “duh” moments that are cringeworthy. Still, there’s much to admire about the film as a whole – the dialogue is often cracking, and the production design does well to give the film a fine mood of cobblestones and worn wood.
More an acting and dramatic exercise than a fully fleshed out film, NOBBS nevertheless manages to remain steadfast through to its predictably tragic conclusion. There’s no happy ending here, thus avoiding maudlin wish fulfillment that easily could have plagued the film, and as such the quite moments as the film closes remain effective. Certain to receive critical notice for Close’s turn as a man, the film is thankfully more than this one trick, but at the same time it doesn’t quite resonate the way that it could of in more certain hands.