Glenn Close dresses in drag, courts ladies in new Victorian-era film

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “My, that Glenn Close is a handsome woman,” you’re about to have to tweak your perspective a little. The first photo of the actress in male drag for her new film The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs has emerged. I must say, the 63-year-old Damages star still looks as handsome as ever.

The film follows an Englishwoman who dresses as a man to work and survive in Victorian Dublin in 1898 and begins to court another woman. The movie is based on the short story by Irish novelist George Moore, which was turned into a play in 1978. This isn’t Glenn’s first time playing Albert Noob either: she first stepped into the role on stage and won an Obie for her off-Broadway performance in 1982. She has been trying to get the movie version made for the past decade. At a press conference in Dublin last week, she called the story “so original and different” and that it packs a “huge emotional wallop.”

Like in the play, the movie will follow Glenn’s character, Albert Noob, as she lives as a man and attempts embark in a same-sex relationship with another woman. A 1982 review from The New York Times says her character (a waiter in the play, a butler in the movie) at first cuts herself off from the prospect of relationships, but then meets another woman living as a man who is also happily married to a woman. Emboldened, Albert decides to try courting a maid she works with.

The official synopsis for the film from the UK Film Council reads:

19th century Ireland: a woman with no husband or family and without work would face a bleak life of poverty and loneliness. Albert, a shy butler who keeps himself to himself, has been hiding a deep secret for years — “he” is a woman who has had to dress and behave as a man all her life in order to escape this fate.

When handsome painter Hubert Page arrives at the hotel, Albert is inspired to try and escape the false life she has created for herself. She gathers her nerves to court beautiful, saucy young maid Helen in whom she thinks she’s found a soul-mate — but Helen’s eye is on a new arrival: handsome, bad-boy Joe, the new handy-man!

As Albert dares to hope that she might one day live a normal life, we catch a glimpse of a free-spirited woman who is caught in the wrong time … This humorous but ultimately poignant ensemble story about life “below-stairs” is nothing less than Gosford Park meets Boys Don’t Cry.

At this point you’re probably thinking: “This film sounds amazing! I must see it now!” But wait, there’s more — I haven’t even told you about the cast yet. Joining Glenn in production are Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland), Jonathan Rhys-Myers (The Tudors), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore!), Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) and Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds, Songcatcher).

Glenn co-wrote and is producing the picture. Directing will be Rodrigo Garcia, the son of famed author Gabriel García Márquez and writer-director behind the films Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Nine Lives and Mother and Child. At the same press conference last week, Garcia said:

It is the kind of script that is moving and funny with a story that is compelling. It is something about people’s interior lives and their longing. It is rare for a script to bring together so many interesting themes.

The roles of each cast member haven’t been revealed yet, but my guess is Mia will play the “beautiful, saucy young maid Helen” and Jonathan will be the “handsome, bad-boy Joe.” If that’s so, I’m just going to have to pretend the 42 year age difference between Mia and Glenn isn’t there because a film about complicated Victorian-era gender politics sounds too good to worry about the uncomfortable May-December of it all.

The film began shooting this month and is expected to wrap in early February. It is being produced independently and there is no release date yet. But with a cast and a story like that, I certainly hope it won’t find any difficulty making it to a theater very near you very soon So what do you think? Like Glenn in drag? Like the story? Like the cast? How could you not? Discuss.

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