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Glenn Close Caps Career with Understated Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close leads an adept, uncompromising cast in Albert Nobbs, which had its premiere here last night at the Telluride Film Fest in the Galaxy Theater.  Because the film, and many of its cast members, have been deliberately kept under wraps, no one knew what to expect.  We all assumed we would know what we were going to get but this is a film unlike any other you’ve likely seen. You never quite know where it’s headed and it offers some startlingly beautiful scenes.  Close is headed for her sixth Oscar nomination with this her most difficult and accomplished role to date.

But Close’s Albert Nobbs is not Oscar’s usual cup of tea in that Close deliberately holds back much more than she gives away.  This is bound to leave some with discomfort and perhaps a feeling of dissatisfaction.  But what you’re seeing in that performance is a very deliberate interpretation of this character Nobbs, someone Close has been internalizing and contemplating for thirty years.

Close was also very much the writer on the film, working closely with Rodrigo Garcia, putting her in line for a possible writing nod for her too.   What I admired about the film was that it doesn’t pander to its audience or give any easy answers: this is a film meant to make you think.  That was why, after leaving the theater, I needed some time to mull it over.  There was no doubt that Close’s Nobbs was every bit as haunting as her Sunny Von Bulow or Alex Forest.  But Close keeps so much inside for this performance.  So much is trapped underneath and yet we’re asked to really invest much of our time with her.  To that end, we end up feeling as suffocated and trapped as she does.  One thing I know for sure: I will never forget Albert Nobbs.

The other standout here is Janet McTeer, who plays Nobbs’ only real friend.  McTeer explodes off the screen and is also headed for an Oscar nomination in supporting – you can bet the bank.  But to talk about her character is to give too much away, and the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to keep much of it under wraps.

I’ll be writing more about Albert Nobbs but just wanted to give you a quick take.  You will all want to know if Glenn Close wins, finally, this year.  She has competition in Viola Davis who, if nominated, could trump all.  Meryl Streep, of course, has The Iron Lady coming.  But if you put the two together, you’re probably looking at Albert Nobbs being Glenn Close’s Sophie’s Choice where The Iron Lady certainly will not be.  It’s already shaping up to be a competitive year in the Best Actress category, which keeps thing interesting – and is far preferable to the alternative.