I tried thinking of clever puns like “Close, but no cigar.” The problem with that one is the movie wasn’t even close. It was so far from close to being remotely interesting. At the screening I attended with 20 other critics, I had never witnessed anything like what I saw that day. At least half of them left during the middle of the movie. A few didn’t come back; a few went to make phone calls or hit the bathroom, and came back 10 minutes later.
I feel horrible for Close. She played this character 30 years ago off-Broadway. It took her around 12 years to get this to the big screen. She’s the producer, co-writer, and star of the movie. I really have no idea how she got an Oscar nomination for this role. I’m a little less baffled by her co-star, Janet McTeer getting a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination (although it does give away a key scene even knowing she’s in it, as you’re supposed to first believe she’s a male roommate of Nobbs).
Neither of them look remotely believable as women, although that’s the least of my concerns. We all loved Tootsie, and Dustin Hoffman doesn’t look anything like a woman.
It’s not just her look that’s distracting, but that name – Albert Nobbs. It sounds like a ‘70s porn star.
She plays a longtime servant at an upscale hotel in Dublin in the 19th Century. She’s well-mannered and does an excellent job, especially at remembering what various clients like.
Nobbs hides her tips and wages in floorboards, hoping to some day open a tobacco shop. She would like to do this with Mia Wasikowska. Can you blame her?
Wasikowska has never done a performance I disliked, and she’s great here as the chambermaid who has eyes for the bad boy boiler room maintenance man that was recently hired (Aaron Johnson from Kick-Ass). That doesn’t mean she won’t go out on a few dates with Nobbs (I won’t say anymore, in case you’re still going to see this mess of a movie).
I enjoyed the randy doctor Brendan Gleeson played, but Orlando Bloom and Amanda Seyfried add nothing to the production.
The main problem is we can’t root for a protagonist we know so little about, and can’t quite figure out. You just have a hard time connecting with this character, no matter how well she rocks that bowler hat.
Nobbs talks briefly about abuse in the past, and we see a lovely sequence where she does dress up like a woman and stroll the town. The film needed more moments like that, and some humor.
Period pieces can be a tough sell, and ones that are this bad will probably disappear from the theatre quickly. Even with the few Oscar nominations it got.
It gets 1 star out of 5.