Peter Bradshaw 

Albert Nobbs – review

A prosthetics-daubed Glenn Close, playing a woman posing as a male waiter, looks more like Robin Williams, says Peter Bradshaw
  
  

This film's unusual subject matter doesn't entirely explain the various excruciatingly self-conscious performances and prosthetic makeup effects. It's a film whose unrelaxed body language screams: "Give me prizes!" As producer, co-writer and star, Glenn Close has reportedly spent the last 15 years developing the project – an adaptation of a short story by George Moore, first published in 1918 – since appearing in a stage version in the 80s. She stars as a shy waiter in a smart 19th-century Dublin hotel. This is a world where male servants enjoy superior pay and tips, but Albert is actually a woman, and on being forced one night to share a room with a house painter called Hubert Page, she fears exposure will ruin both her livelihood and life. In the leading role, Close looks off-puttingly like a Tussauds waxwork of Robin Williams – specifically Williams playing the butler-robot in the 1999 sci-fi drama Bicentennial Man. Albert's appearance is odd, though perhaps no odder than Hubert Page, who with massive shoulders and nose looks like the front half of a pantomime horse. To me, Close's performance doesn't suggest tenderness or loneliness, just an elaborate, cramped blankness. In supporting roles, Brendan Gleeson and Mia Wasikowska inject some energy – but this is a very inert, middlebrow quality drama.