To his customers, fastidious butler Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close, re-creating her 1982 stage role) is a "kind little man" who works in an upscale Dublin hotel at the turn of the century, prioritizing his position above all other concerns. Little do they know that he isn't really a man and that he dreams of running a tobacco shop. Until then, he's quietly biding his time when two new workers arrive: Joe (Nowhere Boy
's Aaron Johnson), a strapping handyman, and Hubert (Oscar nominee Janet McTeer), a swaggering housepainter also passing as a man. After Hubert discovers Albert's secret, they share their stories, and a friendship ensues. Hubert's marriage to a spirited seamstress inspires Albert to find a spouse of his own, so he sets his sights on flighty housemaid Helen (Jane Eyre
's Mia Wasikowska). With money in short supply, her erstwhile lover, Joe, encourages her to play along, a move that brings out Albert's tender side while jeopardizing his security. Since the script avoids any mention of sex, it isn't clear where Albert falls on the orientation spectrum; if anything, he comes across as asexual. Director Rodrigo García (Mother and Child
) specializes in female-centric scenarios, so his somewhat stagy adaptation of George Moore's novella may seem like a change of pace, except his protagonist switches genders due more to necessity than desire. Though Close gives an admirably controlled performance, Albert's closed-off character makes him more intriguing than sympathetic, though she speaks about him with affection in her commentary track with García. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
A poverty-stricken woman in 1860s Ireland disguises herself as a man to gain employment as a waiter in a Dublin hotel. As she settles into her new role in society, she becomes increasingly confused about her identity, courting a maid while pretending to be a man and revealing her secret to a hotel guest.
L’action du film se déroule à Dublin, en Irlande, à la fin du 19e siècle. Une femme devra se faire passer pour un homme pour survivre. Elle sera coincée dans ce rôle, obligée à s’habiller et à travailler comme un homme pendant trente ans.