(2011) O the woes of being a woman in Ireland in the late 19th century. Unless she were a lady of the upper class, such as the Viscountess Yarrell, a poor girl was at the mercy of men and circumstances, such as a maid made hussy with a child and cast out onto the streets. The Catholic Church would take away the infant but leave her a victim to fend for herself.
At Morrison's Hotel in Dublin, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close - if one didn't know she's an actress, the name might hide her gender), a middle-aged waiter on Mrs Margaret Baker's staff, keeps to himself when not on duty, saving every penny under the floorboards in anticipation of having accumulated enough to acquire a tobacco shop within the year.
When Mrs Baker hires a housepainter, Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), she expects Albert to share his bed with the workman for a night. "You're a woman," Page discovers by accident. "Just promise you won't tell," Nobbs pleads. During a party with the guests behaving boisterously, Dr Holloran (Brendan Gleeson), Mrs Baker's favorite resident, unwittingly says to Albert: "We are both disguised as ourselves."
Adapted from George Moore's novella by screenwriters Glenn Close, Gabriella Prekop, and John Banville, this cross-dressing-for-survival drama of a female "bastard," who chose to pretend to be a man after being gang raped at fourteen, directed by Rodrigo Garcia, quietly wends its way to an unexpected conclusion.
"Your secret is safe with me," Page positively assures Nobbs before taking Albert into bosom confidence, introducing the waiter to his spouse Cathleen (Bronagh Galagher), with a suggestion that Albert likewise find a wife, hinting that maidservant Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska) might be a worthy candidate.
Helen, however, has become romantically attached to Joe Macken (Aaron Johnson), an ambitious, uncouth lad intent on emigration to America: "No hope for us here, Helen." Nonetheless, Joe encourages the girl to "walk out" with Albert to "see what he's after" while using her wiles to get him to pay for their passage out of Ireland. Finding Nobbs "the strangest man I've ever met," she's repulsed by his stiff manner devoid of any attempt to show her affection.
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