As much as Meryl Streep’s 17 Oscar nominations for Best Actress with two wins is an astonishing achievement in itself and her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady is superb and faultless, I cannot see how it could get the Oscar over Glenn Close’s performance in Albert Nobbs.
The Best Actress Oscar should go to the performance that exceeds our expectations. Meryl is brilliant – but we expect that from her. She’s portrayed real-life characters before such as Lindy Chamberlain in Evil Angels. So is it a stretch for a modern middle-aged actress of her calibre to portray a modern middle-aged politician albeit with the kind of make-up aging techniques we saw Brad Pitt undergo for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button?
Then look at Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs – a modern middle-aged woman playing a younger man of a Dickensian era who then ups the ante by doing something daring like going out in public dressed in drag as a woman. (If that seems confusing, it will become clear when you see the film.)
Someone might argue that Meryl did less of a character portrayal and more of an impersonation of a real-life human being. Some might argue that Glenn Close portrayed a male impersonator who has a crack at being a female impersonator. But when you see the two performances side by side, Glenn’s is still the one that goes just that bit further.
So again Meryl’s performance is truly great – but is it ground-breaking and career-defining for her? I think not. She has so many more amazing roles to her name (see her in Doubt, Sophie’s Choice, Kramer Vs Kramer, The Devil Wears Prada, Silkwood, The Deer Hunter, Postcards From The Edge and my personal favourite – Death Becomes Her).
In The Iron Lady, Meryl plays a woman – the same woman – for the entire film. In Albert Nobbs, Glenn plays a woman pretending to be a man who then pretends to be a woman. There is more than one character for her to play simultaneously.
Meryl mimics a real life person – Glenn creates a character from scratch.
Last century when I objected to Scorsese not winning the Best Picture Oscar for Goodfellas, a smart cinephile said to me ‘ahh, but he hasn’t done his greatest work yet. Scorsese is a divine director and the best is yet to come.’ Perhaps he was right because more amazing work did follow.
Well the same applies to Glenn Close. This is her best work and she should get the Best Actress Oscar for it. She’s been nominated six times before but has not won. And her outstanding roles to date are in films such as Dangerous Liaisons, Reversal Of Fortune, The Big Chill, The Natural and who could forget Fatal Attraction? Is it about time she won one? Yes it is.
Meryl has been sweeping the Best Actress awards this year with Viola Davis of The Help now looking very much neck and neck with her for the Oscar. And while Glenn has been nominated right along side both of them, she’s not getting to make many acceptance speeches. So I wonder if she’ll get to stand on the stage and thank the Academy.
The Best Actress Oscar nominees for 2012 are all breathtaking in their performances. But it’s Glenn Close who has gone just that bit further with her transformative role in Albert Nobbs.
The Tomatometer at https://www.rottentomatoes.com/ has The Iron Lady rated 55% and Albert Nobbs at 51%. By contrast, the Best Picture Oscar nominee that will more than likely win is at 97% – that’s the beautiful and funny black and white silent film The Artist. So Glenn’s and Meryl’s films are pretty much even when it comes to critic’s reviews.
So who will get the Best Actress Oscar? Let’s go back to my cinephile friend’s comment about ‘best work’. This is Glenn Close’s best work and a career-defining role. I don’t know what she could in future to better it.
While the Best Actress Oscar should go to the best performance, mention should be made that Glenn also co-wrote the movie, produced it and wrote the original song for it as well. Her passion for the project goes way beyond her own performance in it. And there’s a sublime support cast – particularly Janet McTeer who should be making a few more acceptance speeches too.
It’s true that some reviewers and audience members have found Albert Nobbs to be a creepy film. But having lived through the Thatcher years, I can assure you that British Prime Minister is a far more creepy character who did many more creepy things en masse than Albert Nobbs did. During the Falklands War I remember singing along to an indie punk song called How Does It Feel To Be The Mother Of 1000 Dead. Her politics had fewer fans outside the circles of the rich and powerful.
I cross my fingers for Glenn Close’s chance at the Best Actress Oscar but I won’t hold my breath. No matter who wins it this year, that actress does deserve the recognition. I just wish my subjective favourite, Albert Nobbs is the one to thank the Academy.
Check out the trailers here: