TELLURIDE: Close’s passion for ‘Nobbs’ unmistakable, though maybe blinds to flaws

Posted by · 12:29 am · September 3rd, 2011

Hats off to Glenn Close. Really. When you’ve lived with and loved a role and a story for as long as she’s hung on to “Albert Nobbs” (which she first performed as a play way back in 1982), you deserve a pat on the back.

She’s been trying to get this made as a film ever since she stumbled onto the George Moore short story, and even saw things fall apart 10 years ago when she was oh so close (no pun intended). Finally, it’s a reality, thanks to filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia. But with great passion can come, often, blinders to the flaws of a story.

The film tells the tale of Albert Nobbs, who appears to merely be a “kind little man,” a hotel waiter in 19th-century Ireland. Or so it would seem. In reality, Nobbs is an older woman posing as a man in a male-dominated society, glacially putting together the funds to live her dream: purchasing a small shop and selling, oh, tobacco will do.

Both the charm and the tragedy of the piece comes in that naivete. We learn in back story conveyed to a confidante of an unfortunate circumstance in Nobbs’s past, one that robbed her of an innocence far too young and perhaps froze her there permanently.

It’s an intriguing character, but one that feels somewhat closed off to the audience. That works, given the circumstances, up to a point, but before long it becomes of a piece with the film’s claustrophobic nature: it never really breaks out of its stage roots. A well-rounded ensemble helps matters by livening the proceedings up, but the film is also structured in a peculiar way, the story never opening up into considerable philosophical stakes.

All of that said, Close is fantastic in the role of Nobbs. It’s the kind of performance that ought to merit an Oscar nomination, should Roadside find traction (and put a lot of effort into the built-in narrative of the actress’s under-appreciation in matters of film awards). She knows the part all too well and she gives Nobbs a life and a sparkle that isn’t there on the page. Performances from Janet McTeer, as a painter in a similar situation, and Mia Wasikowska, as a hotel waitress who becomes the object of Nobbs’s affection, are also worth mentioning.

In any case, even though I don’t think the film ever really taps a pulse, I’m finding it difficult to be too hard on it. Again, it’s lovely to see a passion project finally see its way to fruition and I don’t think anyone can rain on Close’s parade for that. I look forward to discussing all of that with her tomorrow morning.

[Photo: Roadside Attractions]

→ 24 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Reviews

24 responses so far

  • 1 9-03-2011 at 12:48 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    All that matters is that her performance is worthy of the nomination — I want her to win regardless of the competition.

  • 2 9-03-2011 at 12:50 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I wouldn’t count on that happening, and a nod could slip through the cracks, too. Just depends on the reaction.

  • 3 9-03-2011 at 2:03 am

    Markus said...

    Passion for a project does not warrant an Oscar nomination. Close really needed to hit this performance out of the park to get an Oscar nod and it sounds as though you are being kind and applauding her passion but the performance isn’t really there nor the film as a whole.

  • 4 9-03-2011 at 2:58 am

    dinasztie said...

    Let’s get this straight: can she win or not? Will she win? I’m desperate for her to win.

  • 5 9-03-2011 at 4:03 am

    Tye-Grr said...

    ^He’s not even saying that a nomination is a sure thing, so a win shouldn’t even be talked about yet.

  • 6 9-03-2011 at 4:45 am

    matsunaga said...

    Well the biggest reason why the buzz for “Albert Nobbs” is in the air for quite some time is because of Glenn Close’s Oscar chances… Will she finally get the much deserved statuette or not?

    If Close’s performance is not as good as Streep’s then all these talks for the film will be in vain and Vice-versa…

    Streep should have someone worthy of competition to be worthy of a win if she’ll do good in “The Iron Lady”…

  • 7 9-03-2011 at 5:38 am

    sosgemini said...

    Bette Midler got a nomination for her passion project, For The Boys. This despite everyone saying it sucked!

  • 8 9-03-2011 at 5:39 am

    JJ1 said...

    Glad that you liked the film. Glad that Glenn Close finally got it out there. I can’t wait to see it and her performance eventually.

    And “just in case” she doesn’t wow me as Knobbs, personally. I just re-watched ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ yesterday and bumped her up to #1 in my Lead Actress list; just ahead of Foster.

    And though she didn’t get nommed in ’90 in Supporting for ‘Reversal of Fortune’ … wow, watched that a week ago, and she deserved the nom/possible win for that.

    Hope you’re enjoying Telluride, Kris!

  • 9 9-03-2011 at 5:53 am

    Rashad said...

    How’s her voice? I remember her screams in Hook sounded like a woman and not a man.

  • 10 9-03-2011 at 6:35 am

    Andrej said...

    Dunno. I always deemed Close ahead of Streep or Davis. Her personal story with her longlasting Albert Nobbs project and the Academy Awards made her chances sound to be too good to be true.

    Can’t wait to check it out.

  • 11 9-03-2011 at 6:41 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “…it sounds as though you are being kind and applauding her passion but the performance isn’t really there…”

    Then you’re not paying attention to the penultimate paragraph.

  • 12 9-03-2011 at 8:01 am

    Michael said...

    Wow, that is a little disheartening to hear about Glen Close and Albert Nobbs as a whole, but I guess that is par for the course this season.

    It seems like everything is striking out left and right, in terms of finding that film that everyone responds to. It seems like between The Ides of March, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, The Artist, Albert Nobbs, and The Descendants that they are all either pretty good, good, or really good (maybe a few are great depending on the viewer) – but nothing seems to be universally accepted as a hands down masterpiece across the board Oscar deserving film. Not saying any of these films are bad or that they can’t be nominated or win, but sometimes you can just tell when something special has been delivered – even at a film festival that only a handful of people get to see – and so far nothing has really surprised or elevated yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the best is yet to come, but I can’t deny that my expectations for the above mentioned films has diminished drastically after reading many of the reviews.

  • 13 9-03-2011 at 8:46 am

    The Dude said...

    What was the reaction of the audience at your screening, Kris? I’m having trouble finding early reviews/reactions to this movie (people were quick to jump online for Ides of March/Descendants/Carnage/A Dangerous Method, not so much for this one). Did it seem others were in your boat, aka Close was good but the movie was lacking? Or was the general reception better/worse than your own reaction? Very interested in how this one plays out, as it was my sleeper pick of the season (and I am a huge admirer of Close).

  • 14 9-03-2011 at 9:10 am

    The Other James D. said...

    I guess it rests on Toronto now. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time an actor/actress potentially won despite their film being less-than-stellar, if the awards voters feel that Close is a deserving winner. It just means it’s less of a slam dunk win than some of us prognosticated.

    Maybe Streep won’t win either and they’ll give it to Viola Davis <3.

  • 15 9-03-2011 at 9:36 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    The Academy better give her some mercy fuck consolation.

    Kate Winslet (2008)
    Susan Sarandon (1995)
    Emma Thompson — Adapted Screenplay (1995)
    Jessica Lange (1994) / Supporting Actress (1982)

  • 16 9-03-2011 at 10:25 am

    Markus said...

    I think Streep now becomes the true frontrunner even though her project has yet to premiere.

  • 17 9-03-2011 at 2:40 pm

    sosgemini said...

    Nicole Kidman last year is another example for Rabbit Hole.

  • 18 9-03-2011 at 7:11 pm

    Speaking English said...

    An example of what?

  • 19 9-03-2011 at 7:52 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, a lot of the reviews single out Janet McTeer, as well as Close. Do you think McTeer has a solid shot at a nom in Supporting?

    And sosgemini was probably referring to the fact that – like Close – Kidman starred in a very small film that she produced/was proud of. And yet, Kidman was the only nom from the movie.

    The difference is, I get the impression that Knobbs won’t have the strong of reviews that Rabbit Hole received.

  • 20 9-03-2011 at 7:57 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    I’m…not sure I really comprehend your list, /3rtfu11….

    However, yes, the reviews for AN might be iffy. But so were The Reader‘s, so we’ll see if the lifetime achievement movement holds water. As it stands, she could potentially miss all major awards, and still win SAG and the Oscar. We’ll see. I’ll be rooting for Davis now though as a backup.

  • 21 9-03-2011 at 8:38 pm

    Carman J. said...

    I saw it this morning at the Chuck Jones Cinema and I agree with you, Kris, about the film as a whole. The character of Albert Nobbs works as a repressed butler only to a point. Glenn Close is wonderful, though, and Janet McTeer, for me, was best in show.

  • 22 9-03-2011 at 9:31 pm

    Keith said...

    Well, now I just don’t know what to think. Dare I say it, I’m almost rooting for War Horse. Jeez. Can we please have a great movie!

  • 23 9-04-2011 at 9:27 am

    /3rtfu11 said...


    The list is about mercy fuck Oscar victories — which is what I hope happens for Close.