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Rodrigo García
Glenn Close, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Janet McTeer, Brendan Gleeson
Writing Credits:
Glenn Close, John Banville, George Moore (short story), Gabriella Prekop, István Szabó (story)

We are all disguised as ourselves.

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.

Box Office:
$8 million.
Domestic Gross
$3.014 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/15/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Rodrigo Lopez and Actor Glenn Close
• Three Deleted Scenes
• Previews and Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Albert Nobbs [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 17, 2012)

By the end of the 1980s, it seemed certain that Glenn Close would win an Academy Award as an actor. After all, between 1983’s The World According to Garp and 1989’s Dangerous Liaisons, Close received five Oscar nominations.

And then – poof! Close veered more toward pop fare like 101 Dalmatians and Air Force One, so she didn’t appear in much that seemed to be “Oscar-worthy”. Eventually Close gravitated toward TV – her lead role in Damages kept her busy for years – so I figured Close’s Academy Award window had shut for good.

Nope. I don’t know if Close will ever actually win an Oscar, but 2011’s Albert Nobbs brought her back to cinematic prominence, as it earned her a Best Actress nomination. She lost to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, but after 22 years away from the Oscar ceremony, it was nice to see Close in contention, and I hope that this becomes a springboard to renewed glory for her.

Set in 19th century Dublin, middle-aged Albert Nobbs (Close) is employed as the head butler at Morrison’s Hotel. He saves his money diligently in hopes that he can someday launch his own business. In the meantime, he lives a quiet, subdued life in which he usually keeps to himself.

This changes when Albert is forced to share his room with a worker named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer). Albert tries to get through the night without provocation, but when a flea gets inside his clothes, he freaks – and reveals himself to be a woman. Page sees this but promises to keep mum about Nobbs’ true identity.

As it turns out, Page has a good reason to be sympathetic, as “he” is also a woman pretending to be a man. Indeed, Page played the game so well that “he” married a woman. This inspires Albert to believe that he/she might be able to enjoy a less solitary life, so he sets his sights on fellow servant Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska).

I suspect movies with gender-bending characters work best as comedies, largely due to the inherent unreality of the situation. Rarely do women-pretending-to-be-men or men-pretending-to-be-women actually seem believable. It’s a rare movie in which the audience truly buys the gender shift that we see the characters accept, so the concept fares best when placed in a comedic circumstance; since films of that sort want laughs, we don’t take the unreality as seriously.

This becomes a flaw in Nobbs, as I found it difficult to ever suspend disbelief and accept the notion that no one questions Nobbs’ gender. Granted, people tend to believe what they’re told, and without substantial reason to suspect otherwise, most would probably swallow Nobbs’ – and Page’s – claims of masculinity.

As a viewer, though, I never buy the conceit. While I could explain the characters’ suspension of disbelief, I couldn’t do it myself, and I constantly wanted to smack the participants upside the head and yell at them “that’s a woman, baby!” While talented performers, neither Close nor (especially) McTeer ever become remotely convincing as men; I always remained astutely aware of their femininity.

I might’ve found it easier to suspend disbelief if Nobbs provided a more engaging tale or set of characters. With a more involving story, I’d care less about the seeming believability of the ruse, but Nobbs doesn’t dig too deep. We get only a superficial view of what led Albert to launch her ruse, and we never get an especially good take on the role.

Granted, I suspect a lot of that’s intentional. Nobbs is a person who’s lived a lie for decades, and someone like that would try to blend in as much as possible; he should would lack much in the way of distinguishing traits on purpose.

Nonetheless, I’d think the movie could bring out more of Nobbs’ internal life, especially as it develops his/her growth after he/she attempts to broaden his/her life horizons. While we see a mild awakening in Albert when he/she launches into his/her attempted romance and change of life, this theme doesn’t prosper.

That’s partially due to an unfortunate story shift that occurs around the start of the third act. Typhus hits Dublin and sends the movie down a weepy melodrama path that doesn’t suit it. At its best, the film hints at an intriguing tale of a person whose life allows them to blossom at a semi-advanced age, but the impact of disease on the scene takes it off the rails. The typhus doesn’t dominate, but it starts the story on a trajectory from which it never recovers.

I can’t call Nobbs a bad movie, and despite my inability to accept Close or McTeer as men, they do well in their roles. I just can’t find enough substance to the tale or its characters to involve me in the film. It creates a fairly bland melodrama without much depth, and that becomes its main flaw.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Albert Nobbs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The image looked fairly solid.

For the most part, sharpness looked good. A little softness crept into the image at times, but not frequently. Instead, the movie almost always appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

In terms of colors, the movie went with chilly tones. This was a low-key palette without much to make it lively; it alternated between amber or cold blue, without much else on display. That was fine, as one would expect a subdued tint for a quiet period drama such as this. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots came across as appropriately dense but not overly dark. Overall, the picture appeared positive.

I also felt reasonably pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Nobbs, though it didn’t have much to do. Character-based, the soundscape occasionally popped to life, but it usually concentrated on music and dialogue. The environmental material helped broaden the movie’s horizons – such as during the costume ball - but don’t expect a lot of active, involving material; the mix usually remained subdued.

Audio quality was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess; accents rendered lines tough to understand at times, but those issues didn’t stem from the accuracy of the source. Music seemed warm and full, while effects showed good clarity and definition. This was a good but unexceptional track.

A few extras fill out the set. We start with an audio commentary from director Rodrigo Lopez and actor Glenn Close. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/script/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, costume/production design and period details, makeup and music, and a few other domains.

This chat gives us a fairly subdued, introspective look at the movie. It tends to favor character/story topics and spends less time with the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. This means it never becomes an especially balanced discussion, but Close and Lopez do manage to offer some interesting thoughts about the flick. Don’t expect a great commentary, but this one works reasonably well.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of eight minutes, 16 seconds. We find “Nobbs and Joe Have Tea”, “End of Date – At the Pub” and “Helen Asks Nobbs for Money”. All of these accentuate supporting characters and fail to add anything substantial. The final film is already a bit long, so another eight minutes wouldn’t have helped it.

The disc opens with ads for Biutiful, Circumstance, I Love You Phillip Morris, Winter’s Bone and Margin Call. These pop up under Also from Lionsgate as well, and we get the trailer for Nobbs, too.

While I’m happy that Albert Nobbs managed to bring Glenn Close back to cinematic prominence, I can’t say the movie itself does much for me. It comes with a potentially intriguing premise and some good performances but lacks substance and ends up as a weepy melodrama. The Blu-ray delivers strong picture quality, appropriate audio and a few supplements. I think Nobbs has some moments but it’s a spotty drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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