Glenn plays Albert Nobbs, a woman that has been pretending to be a man for over 30 years, doing so to overcome a childhood trauma, to find a job and to try to fit in as a butler in a Dublin hotel. She saves every penny dreaming of a tobacco shop and, why not, of a young wife. It’s an unusual character, not only because it’s a woman pretending to be a man, but because it’s a character that lives in a world of its own, feeding her life with dreams that would never fulfil.
I think a lot of people dislike the performance because it’s such a hard to like character. I try to separate these two elements: yes, there’s nothing to like about Albert Nobbs and I felt sorry about her, because she really is kind of a small, invisible, uncharismatic person that you’d never notice. This is obvious when presented in contrast to Janet McTeer’s Hubert Page.
Not only is Albert dislikeable, she’s also a bit of a selfish person, something that is clearly obvious in the scene after Cathleen death; she can only think of her own good and of her tobacco shop obsession. Glenn is wonderful when it comes to the details, and I love it how she nuances the performance, and you can tell it stood with her for years. She loses herself in this portrayal and makes it very authentic. The shyness of Albert, the constant fear of rejection by the society, these are all played very well.
By its own existence, this is a flashy character to play, but Glenn plays it as subtly as possible, understanding the needs, feelings and reactions that Albert could be capable of. The transformation is quite impressive, and Glenn nails the physicality of the performance; this really IS a character that very few actresses could’ve played convincingly.
While I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection to the character, nor did I completely understand it, I like what Glenn did with it, the amount of work that she’s put into the performance trying to keep it as easy looking and natural as possible. The entire performance is on Albert’s face. To me, this is an almost . I don’t understand the haters, because to me it’s obvious that Glenn does the best she can given the character’s restraints.