REVIEW: “Albert Nobbs” and the mystery of identity

Unlike The Crying Game, where the sex of a character is a major twist about halfway through, the genders of the characters in Albert Nobbs is not much in doubt: Glenn Close is a big star with above-the-title billing — her butched-up face is the ad campaign. And yet there is just as much mystery here, albeit of a different kind. This is a story of identity that’s almost impenetrable.

Albert (Close) is a gentlemanly servant at a high-end boutique hotel in Ireland. Everyone admires Albert: The women appreciate his respectful demeanor, his male co-workers his work ethic, the boss, Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), his reliability. But no one really knows Albert, who lives in a small room in the attic and squirrels away his money and dreams of something else.

But really, Albert doesn’t even know himself. He has been living as a man for decades — who knows how long? — and cannot even remember a time when he (or she) was not Albert. He has become so repressed, he almost doesn’t have a personality anymore.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sneak Peak of “Albert Nobbs” at Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Houston GLBT Community Center present an advance screening of Albert Nobbs on Thursday, January 26, at 7 pm at the the Brown Auditorium in the Caroline Weiss Law Building (1001 Bissonnet). To receive a free pass to the screening e-mail the Center at president@houstonglbtcommunitycenter.org.  Nobbs (Glen Close) is a person identified female at birth who presents himself as male and serves as a hotel butler  in 19th century Ireland. He lives a life of quite efficiency for 30 years before his secret is discovered. (Trans identified viewers will immediately recognize the question asked of Nobbs in the trailer (after the jump) “What’s your real name?” to which Nobbs responds “Albert.”)

In interviews Close refers to the character in the feminine, and promotional materials for the film describe Albert as a “woman disguised as a man,” obstinately to obtain employment, but we are dealing with a character who spends more than half his life living as a man and who is living 75 years before the term “transgender” or “transexual” were invented. Albert, albeit a fictional character,  presents himself as a man so please forgive me giving him the respect of using male pronouns.

The movie is based on a play which, in turn, is based on a short story by George Moore, the 19th century Irish novelist and childhood friend of Oscar Wilde (Wilde famously said of Moore “He conducts his education in public”). During his life Moore’s novels were frequently banned for taking on what were considered “salacious” themes.

The Museum of Fine Arts recommends arriving 90 minutes early to the film to insure seating. Free parking is available in the surface lot across the street from the Law Building.

—  admin