2011 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Glenn Close vanishes into the role of a girl facing penury in impoverished 19th century Ireland who disguises herself as a man to get work as a servant. Years after donning the guise of Albert Dobbs, she winds up in Dublin's shabbily genteel Morrison's Hotel where it seems her secret may be discovered. An eerily convincing Close gets sterling support from Pauline Collins as the snobbish hotelier and an Oscar-nominated Janet McTeer as a battered wife who's hit on a similar sex-swapping ruse.

Director

  • Rodrigo García

Cast

  • Glenn Close

  • Aaron Johnson

  • Mia Wasikowska

  • Janet McTeer

  • Brendan Gleeson

  • Pauline Collins

Review

A Hollywood legend stuns audiences with a stunning portrayal of a woman doing a man's job.

But that's enough of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady.

This time round it's Glenn Close swapping sexes for the intriguing tale of Albert Nobbs, an Irish orphan seeking to escape grinding poverty by posing as a chap to get a waiting job.

When we first meet Albert, he/she is thoroughly immersed in the gender deception, playing a dutiful butler in an ideas-above-its-station Dublin hotel for so long she's lost her own sense of identity.

Viewed as eccentric rather than effeminate, the quietly courteous servant blends in well enough with the gaggle of young chambermaids, cheerfully chubby cook and sottish waiter.

However, when itinerant decorator and KD Lang doppelganger Hubert (McTeer) is temporarily billeted in her room, Albert fears her secret may come out.

Close, who had a hand in the script and first played the role thirty years ago on stage, gives a restrained performance, playing Albert as a loner who - unsurprisingly - shuns the limelight.

However, her introduction to Hubert, a battered wife fleeing an abusive marriage but now in a loving relationship with another woman, allows her a glimpse of a strange, sapphic world where you can actually be who you are.

Resolutely downbeat, this tale of Victorian gender-bendering scores thanks to skilful performances, particularly from Close and McTeer, and a exhaustive attention to period detail.

But Mrs Doubtfire in reverse it ain't.