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'Albert' a worthy Oscar nominee

Published February 09. 2012 05:01PM

Glenn Close is extraordinary in "Albert Nobbs." While Viola Davis of "The Help," is the front-runner in the Oscar actress category, Close, an Oscar actress nominee, will leave you in awe in a film that is dramatic, thought-provoking, and has a bit of humor.

In addition to Close, "Albert Nobbs" has an outstanding cast, especially Janet McTeer, a supporting actress Oscar nominee. The role played by McTeer has a twist. We won't play spoiler.

"Albert Nobbs" has several nifty plot devices. Again, to reveal these would spoil your enjoyment of the film should you see it. And you should see it.

While overall, the storyline is predictable, "Albert Nobbs" is satisfying, not unlike a good episode of "Masterpiece Theatre" or, at times, "Upstairs, Downstairs."

The story of "Albert Nobbs" takes place in Morrison's Hotel in Dublin in 1898. Albert Nobbs (Close) is a butler who is actually a woman posing a a man. The hotel is filled with a colorful staff and patrons and entertaining events, including dinners and an annual masked ball.

Nobbs is saving her tip money to buy a building and turn it into a tobacco shop and cafe. A subplot is about Helen (always beguiling Mia Wasikowska of "Jane Eyre" and "Alice in Wonderland"), one of the hotel's young staff, and her romance with Joe (Aaron Johnson, who played John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy"). The story of Nobbs and Helen intertwine as does that of the character played by McTeer.

Rodrigo García ("Mother and Child," "Passengers") directs the melodrama in a careful and non-exploitive way from a screenplay written by Close, John Banville (2005 Man Booker Prize, "The Sea") and Gabriella Prekop, based on a short story by George Moore.

Close won an actress Obie in 1982 for the New York off Broadway version, "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs."

"Alfred Nobbs" is also impressive in costuming and makeup, for which it has also received an Oscar nomination.

However, the performance by Close (TV's "Damages") is far from mere makeup. Her meticulous eyes scan her environs and those in it. She is a reserve of fear behind a mask of impassivity.

Described by another character in the film as "such a kind, little man," Close is economical in bearing, walking and powers of observation. In her black tuxedo servant's clothes, it is as though Close is encased in another person's body and looking out.

The cast includes fine performances by Brendan Gleeson as Dr. Holloran, a medical doctor living in the hotel; Pauline Collins, as Mrs. Baker, hotel proprietor; Maria Doyle Kennedy ("The Commitments") as Mary, a hotel staffer; and Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Emmy, a hotel staffer.

"Albert Nobbs" is more than a great performance. Yes, it is that, as embodied by Glenn Close, perhaps being true to her first name. More than this, the film presents a challenging story, perhaps best expressed by Dr. Holloran, who confides to Albert Nobbs: "We are both disguised as ourselves."

"Albert Nobbs" is one such film with which you may identify.

"Albert Nobbs": MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for some sexuality, brief nudity and language; Genre: Drama; Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes; Distributed by Roadside Attractions.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Sinead O'Connor sings "Lay Your Head Down," co-written by Brian Byrne and Glenn Close, during the "Albert Nobbs" closing credits.

Box Office, Feb. 3: "Chronicle," a science-fiction thriller starring Lehigh Valley native Dane DeHaan, opened at No. 1, on Super Bowl weekend with $22 million, keeping "The Woman in Black," starring Daniel Radcliffe, in his first post "Harry Potter" movie role, opening at No. 2, with $21 million, dropping "The Grey" to No. 3, $9.5 million, $34.7 million; and keeping "Big Miracle" opening at No. 4. $8.4 million;

5. "Underworld; Awakening," $5.6 million, $54.3 million, three weeks; 6. "One For The Money," $5.2 million; $19.6 million, two weeks; 7. "Red Tails," $5 million, $41.3 million, three weeks; 8. "The Descendants," $4.6 million, $65.5 million, 12 weeks; 9. "Man On A Ledge," $4.4 million, $14.7 million, two weeks: 10. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," $3.9 million, $26.7 million, seven weeks; 24. "Albert Nobbs," $534,000 (245 screens), $1,572,000, two weeks

Unreel, Feb. 10:

"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D," PG: The re-release of the 1999 science fiction movie stars Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman.

"Safe House," R: Denzel Washington stars as a fugitive guarded by Ryan Reynolds. Robert Patrick and Vera Farmiga also star in the action-thriller.

"The Vow," PG-13: The romantic drama stars Channing Tatum, who must again win the heart of his wife (Rachel McAdams) after she suffers memory loss.

"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who helps locate a grandfather (Michael Caine) believed missing on a mysterious island in the science-fiction adventure comedy.

"Rampart," R: Woody Harrelson stars as a veteran Los Angeles police officer. Sigourney Weaver also stars in the crime drama.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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