Downton Abbey ain’t got nothin on Mr. Nobbs. He’s a servant extraordinaire – no one’s better at anticipating his customer’s needs and the restaurant hums because of his competence. Every night he goes back to his little room, counts his tips fastidiously, and hides them under the floorboards after totting them up in his ledger. So when he’s assigned a new roommate, he’s paranoid his secret will be revealed. No, not the cash. His boobs. Albert Nobbs is not a mister after all.
Albert (Glenn Close) started passing as a man after a traumatic incident at the age of 14. Realistically, it was a way to live safely and an opportunity to earn more money. But he has lived in isolation and constant fear of discovery ever since. Now all he wants is those few extra bucks so he can buy a little shop and live independently. The only thing stopping him is the lack of a wife – which, as you can imagine, is a bit of a roadbump. Luckily he meets someone to inspire him (Janet McTeer), and he soon turns his eye upon a lovely young kitchen staffer (Mia Wiakowska) who hardly knows what to do with the attention of a creepy little old man. Plus her lust bucket is filled with thoughts of the new mechanic (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is handsome and manly and also, it turns out, a drunken bully.
Both Glenn Close and Janet McTeer received Oscar nominations for their respective roles in the film, pretty much a given considering the depth of their perfomances. There’s an ache to watching them – to Close in particular because we are so aware of Albert’s constant pain and discomfort. She never makes a single misstep. And to its credit, the film resists moralizing, or false contextualizing to make it more relevant to today’s social and political climate. It just is. Which is fine, indeed excellent, when it comes to watching stunning performances but the film itself does suffer from being a little too close, a little too one-note.