Glenn Close has not been in a feature film for years as most of her time has been dedicated to her leading role in the television show “Damages.” Another reason we haven’t seen her recently is because she has put so much time into ensuring that the film Albert Nobbs gets made. Close first appeared in the role on stage almost 30 years ago and she has spent the last 10 years trying to put together a film version of the story. Her mission was finally accomplished this year when she brought director Rodrigo Garcia on board and a cast that includes Brendan Gleason, Mia Wasikowska, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The story is about a woman who poses as a man in to operate a business in 19th Century Ireland.
The film screened at the Telluride Film Festival and the reviews trickling in are mostly tepid about the film as a whole, but raving about Close’s perormance.
Kris Tapley of In Contention speculates on the Awards possibility of Mrs. Close:
All of that said, Close is fantastic in the role of Nobbs. It’s the kind of performance that ought to merit an Oscar nomination, should Roadside find traction (and put a lot of effort into the built-in narrative of the actress’s under-appreciation in matters of film awards). She knows the part all too well and she gives Nobbs a life and a sparkle that isn’t there on the page.
Gregory Ellwood of HitFix attempts to pinpoint the reason why the film didn’t work by saying that the director/actress combination of Garcia/Close was all wrong:
Close and Garcia worked together previously on “Ten Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her” and “Nine Lives” (arguably his best film), but he’s simply wrong here. Garcia’s strengths, most notably in his work for on HBO’s “In Treatment,” is letting actors’ performances drive the story. That particular talent or direction helps keep “Nobbs” afloat, but can’t ensure you’ve made a satisfying motion picture. When Nobbs meets his/her fate at the end of the film it lands with hardly any reaction because you simply don’t care. Making the audience at least feel something about the title character’s journey is Garcia’s responsibility and he doesn’t have the ability to pull it off here.
Peter Debruge of Variety says that while Glenn Close fully inhabits her role. Unfortunately her character is so repressed that you barely get the opportunity to admire her skills:
As such, the Nobbs we meet onscreen is not so much a character as a construct, so repressed that the film’s lone emotional breakthrough occurs during a scene in which the usually joyless Nobbs, who hasn’t worn ladies’ attire in decades, finally dons a full-length dress and runs free on a deserted beach. It’s an exhilarating moment in an otherwise claustrophobic piece that offers ample opportunity to admire Close’s performance but little reason to identify with her character’s fate.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter seems to nicely sum up the overall feeling towards the film – Close is as excellent as she can be, but the film ultimately fails to get below the surface:
As far as it goes, Close’s characterization is an object of odd fascination; with pale and taut skin, wavy short hair, stiff posture and blank eyes shot through fear, Close entirely expresses the external life of a woman for whom maintaining appearances is truly everything. But unlike the theatrical version, which was a stylized chamber piece, the film cries out for a deeper exploration of this pinched, unrealized human being.
Michael Patterson of The Playlist does provide one rave for the film and speculates it may be a contender in more than just Best Actress:
The film was shot in present-day Dublin but thanks to uniformly excellent cinematography, costuming and set design, the Dublin of the 1800s has been rendered authentically and beautifully. The makeup, which plays a huge role in transforming Close from a woman into a convincing man, is spectacular too. So with solid, sometimes brilliant supporting performances, an able script that cleverly avoids hackneyed plot turns and deft direction from Rodrigo García, perhaps ‘Nobbs’ deserves to feature in categories other than Best Actress come awards time too?
Stay tuned for more Review Round-Ups from the Telluride Film Festival.
Despite what Patterson says, I think the other critics sound more correct in their speculation that Glenn Close is in store for her sixth Oscar nomination, but the film should not expect much else. It will probably score a nod for Best Makeup, which judging from the trailer and pictures would be well-deserved. However, the film will probably only enjoy a limited release and not do much during the Awards season.
Other Fall 2011 Review Round-Ups: