Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 19 October 2012


Glenn as Albert, Janet as Hubert / Dominic as Uday and his double ...

Albert Nobbs struggles to survive in late 19th century Ireland, where women aren't encouraged to be independent. Posing as a man, so she can work as a butler in Dublin's most posh hotel, Albert meets a handsome painter and looks to escape the lie she has been living. 

At first glance, ALBERT NOBBS could seem to be another dry and stuffy period piece (REMAINS OF THE DAY comes to mind), it ends up though being a surprisingly effective and strong character drama focused mainly on Albert, a woman masquerading as a man and actress Glenn Close delves into the role with such complete detail that she truly does disappear - she had already played the role on stage 30 years ago. Ireland in the 19th century is nicely depicted too, at Morrison's Hotel presided over by an almost unrecognisable Pauline Collins - who certainly gets her wish at the end to redecorate!

Albert lives a totally solitary life, keeping his secret to himself, it may seem odd at first seeing Glenn here as a man but we soon get used to her/him and the others treating him as a man (something Streisand did not quite achieve in YENTL). It may be the most powerful, emotional drama about longing for acceptance and love since BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and I found it equally gripping and wanting Albert to achieve what he/she desires - his own tobacco shop and a wife to share it with, after he comes under the influence of the painter hired to paint a room at the hotel and who must share Albert's bed for the night. He, Hubert Page, turns out to be a woman too - and passes as a man quite successfully. Janet McTeer is absolutely mesmerising here. Women it seems had such a raw deal back then that it was preferable to spend one's life as a man rather than be a hotel maid or skivvy in the kitchen. Hubert though has a wife - and befriends the lonely Albert who becomes fascinated by them and dreams that he too could have such a happy domestic life ...
We worry for Albert as we fear he may lose his hoard of money hidden under the floor-boards as he falls prey to the schemes of new handyman Aaron Johnson who is encouraging the rather silly maid Mia Wasikowska to accept Albert's timid advances ... but the story does not pan out as one expects. There is a kind of grace for Albert at the end ..... after the typhoid outbreak and other dramatic turns.

Glenn and Janet
I like Glenn Close a lot and this is her best role since DANGEROUS LIAISONS, or her Patty Hewes on tv (DAMAGES). As it turned out her supposed rival Meryl got the Best Actress for her cartoon Mrs Thatcher - but Glenn is superlative here, as is McTeer and the splendid supporting cast including Pauline Collins and Brendan Gleeson as the kindly doctor, plus Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maria Doyle Kennedy. This is the kind of movie that affects one for hours afterwards as the characters linger and its nice slow pacing slowly draws one in. It is masterly directed by Rodrigo Garcia, and among the script-writers are Glenn and Irish writer John Banville, from a story by Istvan Szabo. We get so used to Glenn and Janet as men that it is a shock to see them in that one scene dressed as women ..... I am glad I saved ALBERT NOBBS till now, and it is a film I shall return to ... watching it is like savouring a good book one does not want to finish.

Also underrated is THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE from 2011, Lee Tamahori's fascinating drama about that man who became the double of Uday Hussein in Iraq .... this also has a fantastic leading double performance by Dominic Cooper as both the insane brute Uday and Latif, the soldier compelled to be his body double.
Baghdad, the playground for the rich and infamous, where anything can be bought - but for a price. This is Uday Hussein's world and with his depraved lust for debauchery and immorality, he helps himself to whatever turns him on. When army lieutenant Latif Yahia is summoned to Saddam's palace, he is faced with an impossible request - to be Uday's double, or have his family condemned to death. In a world entrenched in betrayal and corruption, knowing who to trust becomes a matter of life or death for Latif, as he battles to escape from his forced existence.
The film depicts Iraq at the time of the Gulf War as a world filled with rape, torture, murder, drugs, sex and money as everyone is terrified of the Saddam family and their henchmen. 

Dominic Cooper from THE HISTORY BOYS and fluff like MAMMA MIA! comes into his own here - when he is on screen as both Uday and Latif it is like watching two different people. Latif has to suffer to ensure his impersonation is correct - his teeth and body have to be altered, luckily Uday was joking about altering his penis size! ... and he is soon horrified by the brutality and corruption around him, as Uday's pursuit of women extends to following schoolgirls or taking a newly-married wife at her wedding reception.
Uday though sees his body double as something he owns and wants to keep with him or take his place when he cannot be bothered to appear in public or may be in danger. The film is exciting and tense as Latif tries to escape and keep his family safe. It should have done a lot better, perhaps it was perceived as being downmarket or exploitative? Whatever - it is a gripping drama with a great central pair of performances from Cooper which should have been acknowledged more. With Ludivine Sagnier - it is an exciting intense drama which reflects a lot of the reality of the time and the place.


  1. So glad that you appreciated ALBERT NOBBS; i felt it was severely underrated, because its restraint and austerity were viewed as deficient. (Because of the premise, i think many critics expected something "outrageous".) And i also am glad that you noted the "supposed" rivalry with Meryl Streep, because it's not true: when Glenn Close realized she was in contention for roles initially offered to Streep, she went after roles that Streep had NO interest in: Close decided to try for roles as sexual villains (cf. FATAL ATTRACTION, DANGEROUS LIASIONS). Plus she also decided to work in TV, producing the series of SARAH PLAIN AND TALL made-for-TV movies.

    Because of their physical similarities (they're both tall, blonde WASPs with strong features), people always claim that their careers are similar, which they are not. Close is a far more pro-active person; though it took her decades to do, Close produced and co-wrote ALBERT NOBBS herself, something that Streep would never do. And though she first played the role on stage (i saw that production, and she was amazing), the role has been reconceived.

  2. How marvellous to have seen Glenn as Albert on stage .... the film is one of those, like Truffaut's HISTORY OF ADELE H. which has such perfect recreation of a time and place ad such strong performances that it becomes totally mesmerising. It has been severely under-rated here in the UK and did not even open here until the Oscar hoopla was well over.