I hear Albert Nobbs got some bad reviews. I can see how it might have gotten lukewarm ones but not bad ones. There are too many great performances in it for the entire thing to be dismissed. The writing and directing have a bit of the anvil to them but they provide a strong enough structure for these characters to live in. The plot is, I’ll admit, sometimes too painful to watch.
I almost don’t want to speak to Glenn Close’s performance. I thought it was a little formulaic and klunky but I can’t be sure that isn’t because she is such a huge figure as an actress and this part has gotten so much hype that I’m simply watching her too closely, so to speak.
Mia Wasikowska’s Helen is somewhat uneven but she manages to pull out some gorgeously genuine moments. I don’t know that Aaron Johnson’s performance is anything spectacular but he sure is lovely to look at. You’d hardly know that Brenda Fricker is an academy award winner because she’s just there doing her job and her job is to be the cook/glue for the establishment. Keep a sharp eye out for Jonathan Rhys Meyers doing something lovely that looks a lot like Henry VIII got caught in the Tardis. Pauline Collins is a delicious Dickensian confection. Maria Doyle Kennedy isn’t given nearly enough to chew on but she’s a treat as she supports Brendan Gleeson’s (see also: The Guard) smooth, sweet turn as the resident doctor.
The reason you ought to go see this one, though, is Janet McTeer. To cite examples of the triumphs in her performance would be to give too much away. Let me assure you, though, that there isn’t a nominated performer this year who is filling her character up with as much knowledge and emotion and letting it out so subtly and gracefully as McTeer does in Albert Nobbs. Every moment she appeared on screen made me yearn for more.
In the end it’s a movie about someone who holds very tightly to their emotions. As a result it’s not an especially cathartic thing to watch. I had the same reaction when I first saw Elizabeth. There I sat thinking objectively about what a good looking and perfectly interesting movie it had been when the last scene slashed a hole in me and left me puddled in my seat.