Two reviews in one day, hell yeah! I’m rushing because school is starting next Monday, and I’m doing volunteering work tomorrow and Sunday, so I might not have time to do a review of this movie. Ok, I’ll be honest and say that the main reason why I wanted to do this review is because I want to pay another tribute to one of my favorite actresses. Frankly, I don’t know whether I will watch the movie again because it definitely has its share of problems and I’ll admit that I was quite bored by it at times. Maybe I will when I really have nothing to do, and after all, there was one performance that really stuck with me. 🙂
So what about Albert Nobbs (2011)? The movie basically tells the story of a woman who dresses as a man in order to work as a waiter in a hotel. She is basically this introverted and almost invisible servant who is evidently very efficient and good at what she does, but doesn’t attempt to claim credit or draw any attention to herself. Things change, however, when she meets the charismatic and confident Hubert Page, who opens up her mind to whole new possible life and encourages her to truly embrace who she is.
It sounds like a great story, which it is, but the whole pace of the movie really drags sometimes. Also, it didn’t help that none of the characters are particularly likeable. I really wanted to smack Aaron Johnson’s character, and he appeared way too many times so every time he did I just wanted the scene to be over ASAP. I thought his performance was quite good though, and it’s really strange to see him as such an asshole, given how I know him as the guy from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Kick-ass. Mia Wasikowska’s Helen Dawes wasn’t much better either; her performance was very good, but the character was quite annoying and I really hated the way she made use of Albert. I guess making the characters dislikeable was necessary as it was meant to be realistic. And in a way, I do like that they were all portrayed to have their flaws and selfish motives (even Albert), but it got to a point where it became quite repetitive for the supporting characters, and I was like “Ok, I got it, you’re horrible”. Less of Aaron and Mia would have been better LOL. However, the actors in general gave very good performances, including Pauline Collins (what a bitch she was in this movie!) so that was one aspect that I really liked. It’s funny how most critics dismiss Albert Nobbs as the most boring character and yet, I was more fascinated by her than the supporting ones. Some people said that the lines are quite cheesy, but I didn’t really mind, maybe because I just watched The Butler so there’s no comparison. I thought that the set and costume designs were quite good; they are not very flashy or colourful, but I thought the fitted the story’s setting and time quite well. Same goes for the makeup, which I thought was really well done.
Now, I’ve said this in my previous post and I’ll say it again: I really, really, enjoy seeing actors performing subtle and quiet roles. Like I said, not every character has to undergo a mental breakdown/cry hysterically/deliver a dramatic monologue/spout witty and catchy lines. Sure, these flashy characters are the ones that we movie viewers enjoy, including me (Must I mention my love for Vivien Leigh’s Blanche Dubois in every post?). But at the same time, I think this also results in us overlooking the quiet performances. I’d like to blame this partially on the Oscars, although they do recognize such performances by nominating them so I guess it’s not really their fault either. I have listed a few of my favourite “quiet” performances and I’ll go on to add a few more now: David Niven in separate tables and Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I know many people like to go, “oh she/he did nothing in this performance other than to cry a few tears and make a few expressions here and there” and yes, I’ll admit that there is always a chance that the actor underplays (or under acts) the role and becomes wooden (I feel that way with Gary Cooper sometimes). However, I find that the chances of this happening is equivalent to that of an actor overacting in a flashy role. Which means to say, I think doing a flashy role and a subtle, quiet role are equally difficult, which is something that most people don’t realise.
I’d describe watching such performances like…listening to your mother tell a story about a friend of hers that you’ve never met, and a particular situation/problem that that person went through. Or reading a Facebook post that your friend shared about another friend of his and something that he’s done. You don’t know that person personally, and he is an ordinary person, but you are at the very least still quite curious about what happened to him. You might admire that person for that good deed that he did, or you might despise him for his errorneous ways, but at the end of the day, he still went through it quite normally without any huge breakdowns or tears, right? There is a lot of depth in such performances that people fail to realise because the actors don’t make it obvious and try to win over your approval, which might have cost them Oscars but won my respect.
Anyway, it’s a matter of preference I guess and I sadly doubt that people’s perceptions towards such performances are going to change in time.
Albert Nobbs is really a very insignificant character. She (I prefer to use she, don’t ask me why) is really a servant in the background who quietly does what is required of her and minds her own business. I’ll just say this now: this is the role that really made me love Glenn Close as an actress. I mean, I have watched her in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons previously, and I have always respected her and thought she was great, but watching this performance after watching her two more iconic and famous ones made me go, “Wow! This woman can ACT!” I guess judging this performance from a…I dunno, Oscar viewpoint may have caused people to really despise this performance. It’s like they’re going down this checklist: Monologue? Yes. Tears? Yes, but not dramatic enough! Complex character? No! Boring, one-note? Yes! Hysterical breakdown? No! Therefore = Overrated! Disappointing! Not worthy of Oscar nom! To be fair, I’d probably wouldn’t have given her the Oscar for this performance. I agree with the criticisms in one way: Since you are so insistent on pitting the performances against one another, you might as well just reward the more emotionally challenging, technically brilliant and more flashy ones. Which is why I really try not to judge a movie and performance based on its Oscar nomination and who it was up against, because it just gets in the way of my appreciation of it. While I probably wouldn’t have nominated this performance over Charlize Theron (another under appreciated actress in my book) in Young Adult, I just don’t think that people should straight away dismiss the performance as bad because of its nomination. I’d rather appreciate acting by seeing whether the actor managed to fully relive the experiences of the character, and whether the actor fully understood what the character is doing and his motives. The motives of the character, unforturnately, might not necessarily be the most interesting to people because it simply isn’t dramatic enough.
Glenn Close really nailed the character, in my opinion. Actually, I have seen Oscar nominated performances that are even more one note than this one, so I don’t get why people bash it. I love the little details and nuances she added to the character. For example, the talking to herself would have seemed extremely silly if not handled properly, but I really felt that she did it right. The character was socially awkward and kept to herself mostly, so it wouldn’t have made sense for her to go about sharing what is on her mind. I love the tiny mannerisms she added to the character: looking down uncomfortably when talking to others, the mumbling, the rigidity of the character (NOT her performance). I also liked how she presented the character’s very simple dream of opening a shop of her own, such as the secrecy of counting her money (it reflected the more calculative and selfish side of the character) and the uncertainty and nervousness when she was sharing her dream with the doctor.
I know people say that the best acted scene was when she was talking about her traumatic childhood, which it probably is, but my favorite moment was when the character showed her selfish side by asking Hubert to join in her business after Cathleen’s death. Close really displayed the selfishness of the character in a very unselfish way, if that makes sense. What I am saying is, she is very natural in her delivery and doesn’t force the audience to pay attention to this so as to make them see a more complex side of the character.
Finally, I must also add that the character goes through much more than people actually realise (which is why I don’t think it’s a one note performance). You initially see that she’s is indeed a very boring person, just a quiet servant of the hotel: she then goes on to meet the more charismatic Hubert Page, and realizes a whole new possibility life ahead of her. Unfortunately, reality is not as easy as it seems, and she gradually became made use of and bitterly disappointed (the crying scene was really effective). However, she decided to give it one last go, which unfortunately led to a violent brawl that cost her life. The character really goes through quite a lot, and Glenn Close does it in a very sympathetic way that makes you feel for her.
There is one criticism about her not really resembling a man. Yes, that’s probably a flaw in the performance but I must add that it didn’t bother me because A) I personally didn’t think that it was that obvious B) I have always thought that even the character was never meant to fully resemble a man anyway. Glenn herself said that she wasn’t playing a man, but a woman seeing things through a man’s perspective. I don’t think it was possible for the character to fully transform into a man, unless she a) went for a sex change operation, b) had really professional make-up artists or c) had polyjuice potion In fact, I think it did help in making Albert seem a little bit “off” and weird, as though something is not right but people just cannot figure out what it is. The character is really an invisible servant anyway, she’s like that “weirdo” in class who always seems off and keeps to herself, but ultimately no one really cares about her. Therefore, I had no issues in believing that no one would bother to investigate and look into Albert’s personal life (thank goodness too, we didn’t need another annoying character). Also, the emotional aspects of her acting really made me overlook this flaw.
Having written all of the above, I just realized that the performance has really grown on me. I initially wanted to just conclude by saying that this performance is a very good one, but not Glenn Close’s best. However, now I really feel this is quite an excellent piece of work by itself and I’m not afraid to declare that I love the performance and was very moved by it. To me, she really did the best she could and I can’t figure out how else it can be done. There are a lot of brilliant details that are very subtle, which probably resulted in people not seeing the underlying depth. Playing it in a more showy manner would probably have been quite odd too, I should think.
P.s. Is anyone as disappointed as Sherlock season 3 as I am? Of course it’s only the first episode so I hope it picks up from here. The whole thing really dragged and the main crime wasn’t as brilliantly solved as the previous seasons. It was lacking the detail and cleverness of the previous episodes and it just wasn’t as well thought out. I expected much more given how the show took more than a year to release season 3. There were a lot of humorous scenes that are indeed amusing but after a while I got bored and found them rather tiresome, and I really just wanted them to move on. There were some obvious references to recent action movies (riding a motorbike down the steps, defusing a bomb…wow) that felt out of place but they were moderately entertaining anyway. The answer to the cliffhanger in season 2 was a bit underwhelming, but I was fine with it because it would have been waaay too difficult to come up with a mind blowing solution. I guess the writers knew it too, since one of the characters said that he was a bit disappointed when Sherlock revealed what happened. Overall, it felt like a very standard and good crime solving mystery thriller, but we must remember that this is Sherlock, one of the best tv shows out there, or at least in the previous 2 seasons.