Albert Nobbs (Close) has a secret: This dedicated yet introverted Irish manservant isn't really a manservant at all! Yes---as Rodrigo Garca's trifling melodrama goes to little effort to hide---he's a she, though the reasons for her deception are murky beyond the big pile of cash (nearing 600 pounds) she's saving beneath her floorboards. All this changes when the macho, chain-smoking Hubert (McTeer) comes to paint the hotel where Albert works and they're forced to share a bedroom. It isn't long before Albert's corset gives the game away and she's begging Hubert not to tell on her. But Hubert has a secret of his own, which he reveals in the most eye-scorching bosom-unveiling ever captured on film: He's a she too!
By this point you hope William Hurt will show up in his duds from The Village and proclaim, "It...is...farce!" But Albert Nobbs, which Close cowrote, coproduced and coauthored a Sinad O'Connor ballad for, means for us to take everything dead seriously---including a treacly Oscar-bait monologue about a gang rape and a "liberating" beach scene (practically an outtake from Ricky Gervais's movie-biz-satirizing sitcom, Extras) in which Albert gets to really be a woman for the first time in years. The unintentional hilarity of the whole enterprise---especially when Albert attempts to romance one of the hotel's naive employees (Wasikowska)---at least keeps you engaged, as does the scene-by-scene suspense over which pitiably wide-eyed expression Close will choose to use next. Hopefully, she's practicing her gracious-loser face for awards season.
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