Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rodrigo Garcia: Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs, Roadside Attractions, 2012.

Gender stratification, sexuality and class come under the lens for inspection in Rodrigo Garcia's well intentioned period piece Albert Nobbs. Set in turn of the century Ireland, Garcia follows the world of Nobbs (Glenn Close), a woman masquerading as a man while working for a big hotel.

Garcia's fascination with women and their roles in our society has fueled some of the more underrated "small" American films of the past decade. Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Nine Lives and Mother and Child are practically begging to be rediscovered. With Nobbs' receiving Oscar noms and poised to be his first real breakthrough film, its a shame that something good could have been great.

The cast and crew have done nothing wrong here. Close is meticulous and fascinating in the titular role; Janet McTeer, Pauline Collins and Brendan Gleeson all have similar impacts with their performances. Michael McDonough's camera is sorrowful and seething; Patrizia van Brandenstein's sets are breathtaking, placing us firmly within the milieu.

Rather it is the screenplay, co-written by Close, which fails to find any human connection for us between these maddening characters. The glacial austerity of Garcia's perplexing picture is what ultimately cuts us off.

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