An un­com­fort­able fit

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

fa­tally stranded be­tween fem­i­nist polemic and ac­ci­den­tal magic re­al­ism.

Still, if you must at­tend, you will surely en­joy one of the great badac­cent show­downs of our time. On bal­ance, Aaron John­son tor­tures enough vow­els to se­cure this year’s Dick Van Dyke Award.

Close, her own ac­cent drift­ing ran­domly from Birm­ing­ham to the East End, plays a waiter who, for rea­sons only sketchily ex­plained, feels forced to live life as a man. Straight-backed Al­bert Nobbs has long cher­ished an am­bi­tion to open a to­bacco shop. To that end, she hides all her sav­ings in an empty space be­neath a loose floor­board.

Much of the ac­tion in­volves Al­bert’s ex­cru­ci­at­ing ef­forts to per­suade a reluc­tant maid (Mia Wasikowska, whose ghastly vo­cal con­tor­tions of­fer John­son some com­pe­ti­tion for the Van Dyke) to join her be­hind the counter in un­likely mar­ried bliss. Mcteer turns up as an­other woman – mar­ried to a lik­able Bron­agh Gal­lagher – who has taken to dress­ing and walk­ing like a chap.

The sup­port­ing Ir­ish play­ers emerge un­scathed. Bren­dan Glee­son, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Brenda Fricker all of­fer rounded, at­trac­tive cameos. But Close’s turn is so oddly pitched that it proves im­pos­si­ble to take the picture se­ri­ously. She’s not quite a man. She’s not quite a woman. She’s barely a hu­man be­ing. More than any­thing else, Al­bert re­sem­bles the wooden, naive, sex­less alien played by David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In con­trast, Mcteer, de­spite man­ag­ing im­pres­sive mas­cu­line swag­ger, sim­ply comes across as, well, a woman in trousers. Each time some­body refers to her as “he” one can’t help but think of Rowan Atkinson’s comic dis­be­lief when Gabrielle Glais­ter passed for a male comic in Black­ad­der Goes Forth.

“‘He’? ‘He’?” the cow­ardly of­fi­cer ex­claimed. “You see. You’re laugh­ing al­ready,” Lord Melchett replied.

The ac­cent’s on su­per­fi­cial­ity: Glenn Close and Mia Wasikowska

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