“Dangerous Method” isn’t dangerous, but “Albert Nobbs” is wonderful – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: TIFF is starting to get the better of me. Wall-to-wall screenings followed by a stop at the SoHo House for a “We Need to Talk About Kevin” dinner made it difficult to get to Scotiabank for an early morning “Albert Nobbs” screening. But I made it, and am glad I did, as Glenn Close’s moving portrayal as the title character is everything advertised. More on that in a second.

Saturday ends up being a day of interviews at TIFF, with talent from films screened on Thursday and Friday hold court at the Fairmont Royal York, the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton or the Intercontinental. I’ve just returned from the Fairmont where I conducted early morning interviews on behalf of Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” They’ll be on the site shortly.

Before that, and before I run off to another round of interviews, I’m posting a few quick takes. These are films I’ll revisit in more detail closer to release date, but now that I’ve caught up with the following awards hopefuls, here are my thoughts:

“A Dangerous Method”
Viggo Mortensen has been very good for David Cronenberg, and vice versa. Starting with “A History of Violence” and leading through “Eastern Promises,” these two have collaborated on dangerous, exhilarating genre films that oozed with criminal menace. Their third consecutive picture together lacks that passion, even though it is about how sexual arousal and perversity in a female patient (Keira Knightley) drove the early explorations of Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen). Cronenberg’s cast is exquisite. Knightly – affecting a wet, Russian accent – is all twitches, spasms and jaw juts as Sabina Spielrein, whose treatment by (and relationships with) Jung and Freud fuels Cronenberg’s “Method.” Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of his own stage play “The Talking Cure” draws a line in the sand between doctor and patient, then pounds that divide with waves of sexual tension. But the eventual release, which should have been Cronenberg’s specialty, is understated. The cast relishes Hampton’s loquacious feast – really, the performances are uniformly great – but the thick wall of speech separates the action from the audience. “Method” is admirable, academic, cool and detached. I wish it were more dangerous.

“Take Shelter”
“Take Shelter” feels like a suitable companion piece to “Bug,” which also starred Michael Shannon as a man losing his grip on reality. But for Curtis (Shannon), the blue-collar husband and father at the heart of Jeff Nichols’ drama, the erosion is far more gradual and the stakes are much higher. “Take Shelter” is moody and unsettling. Few things are scarier in life than our minds playing tricks on us, and Curtis’s wife (Jessica Chastain) and deaf daughter suffer as his nightmares increase in intensity. Some films slowly build. “Take Shelter” chips way at Curtis, at what we know about him, and about our understanding of what’s really happening on screen. There appears to be a natural ending, but “Shelter” blows past it. The last five minutes are vaguely disappointing, but I’ll be happy to debate them with anyone once you’ve checked out the film for yourself. For a while, I wondered if Shannon had awards heat around his performance. While good, I’d be surprised if that panned out.

“Albert Nobbs”
What a wonderful film of self-discovery, of finding love and loving oneself. Glenn Close’s passion project gives the actress the stirring role of Nobbs, a woman repressing her gender to earn a living as a male butler in 19th century Dublin. Fear of being discovered by her employers is temporarily alleviated after Albert meets Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), who opens Nobbs’ mind to a different life that’s potentially filled with hope, freedom and love. Director Rodrido Garcia (“Six Feet Under,” “Big Love”) has filmed a period picture with personality. “Nobbs” avoids the restraint that’s characteristic of the genre, and assembles a stable of actors that feel like members of an extended family … albeit one coping with the mysteries and hardships of gender confusion and economic uncertainty. Close reportedly spent years waiting to get “Nobbs” on screen, but I think society’s current employment problems only help the picture. And larger audiences, I believe, will tap into the movie’s beautiful, quiet grace, cradled by Close in what amounts to a spectacular performance.

OK, time to run. Plenty more interviews left to do today and hopefully two more screenings, including the Sundance hit “Pariah,” of which I’m hearing great things.

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