Last night I met Glenn Close at the Texas screening of her new film Albert Nobbs at the Fort Worth Modern. I've long been a fan of Close's work both on and off the screen. As an actress, Glenn Close needs no introduction. But did you know that Glenn Close is a leading mental health advocate? Her work with Bring Change 2 Mind has enlightened millions to the importance of treating mental illness as a disease, while honoring and supporting those whose definition exceeds the label of their illness.
Because of her mental health work, I've wanted to meet Close for years. Imagine my delight when our friends John and Cami Goff invited my husband Ken and me to a small gathering prior to the screening to meet Glenn Close, producer Bonnie Curtis and director Rodrigo Garcia. Close is one of those rare celebrities who impresses even more off camera than she does in film (and being Glenn Close that is a high bar).
Gracious, articulate without a script, Close spoke about Albert Nobbs, a film that has been her heart's passion. John Goff agreed to fund the film only if Glenn matched his investment. John, a Richard Rainwater protégée, knows people perform best with some skin in the game. Close put up the money and Albert was born.
The film is some of the best acting I've seen in years. Close is brilliant as Albert, a woman who lives her life as a man in Dublin in the 1800s. Albert chooses this life for emotional safety and financial security. She binds her breasts, isolating herself from others to protect herself from others. A glimpse into a healthy relationship makes Albert realize that she wants more. A life alone is lonely. Albert reaches out to another woman in hopes of a more full life. For the outcome, I encourage you to watch the movie.
A superb actor, Glenn Close wasn't afraid to surround herself with other extraordinarily talented actors in this film. Mia Wasikowska shows range beyond her years as Helen. Janet McTeer earned every ounce of her Golden Globe nomination for her peformance as Hubert Page. Close has been nominated for Golden Globes as well, absolutely deserved. They mesmerized me.
This morning I had a light-bulb moment. Albert, who from the surface seems the most dysfunctional character, wanted a highly functional life. She wanted what most of us want: some independence, safety, work that that was her own, and someone to share that life with her. Albert pursued her goal in the most methodical, logical way that she could accomplish it; she became and remained a man to the outside world.
So who's the dysfunctional one here? Other characters chased their life goals of love, acceptance, or security in highly dysfunctional ways. Helen turned emotional back flips for Joe, who couldn't return her affection responsibly. (But damn Aaron Johnson as Joe looked hot! Haven't we all made that mistake?) Another character appeared publicly as a charitable person when she was really a thief with Scrooge-like inclinations. Albert Nobbs reminds us of something we all know: nothing is as it seems on the surface. But Albert also offers a nugget we may have not recognized: someone who appears outwardly dysfunctional can have a clarity of self that many of us lack.
My guess is most people who read Psychology Today are on the "cure" side of the equation: psychologists, psychiatrists or mental health professionals. Albert reminds us that sometimes the people we help can hold a mirror to our souls that helps lead us to a more full and productive life. As your new year begins, listening to the problems-of-old from your clients, try to look past the exterior and listen for that clear, pure sound of self-awareness. Maybe Glenn Close can help you to tune your ear. Albert Nobbs, though odd on the outside, has a soul that sings.
Please support Glenn Close in this extraordinary role that might win her first Academy Award. Albert Nobbs opens at the Angelika in Dallas on January 27, check local theaters for other listings.
Visit the Struck by Living website for more information about Julie K. Hersh.