There’s a basic flaw at the center of Albert Nobbs that trips up even the stronger parts of the film: The title character is completely unbelievable as presented, even with the Oscar-nominated makeup job.
Glenn Close (also Oscar-nominated) plays Albert, a woman in 19th-century Ireland who has been posing as a man for nearly two decades. Albert works as a waiter at a small hotel, and no one—not the rich patrons, not her working-class colleagues—realizes that she isn’t a man, despite the fact that Close looks like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. For someone who’s supposedly been seamlessly passing for so long, Albert is nervous and awkward about pretty much all male mannerisms, which is especially apparent when she tries to court a female chambermaid (Mia Wasikowska).
The upstairs/downstairs drama is mediocre (although enlivened whenever Brendan Gleeson shows up as a randy doctor), and the unconvincing premise only drags it down further.