Film-Forward Review: [BREAKFAST ON PLUTO]

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Cillian Murphy as Patrick 'Kitten' Braden
Photo: Patrick Redmond/Sony Pictures Classics

BREAKFAST ON PLUTO
Directed by: Neil Jordan.
Produced by: Alan Moloney, Neil Jordan & Stephen Wooley.
Written by: Neil Jordan & Patrick McCabe, based on the novel by McCabe.
Director of Photography: Declan Quinn.
Edited by: Tony Lawson.
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics.
Country of Origin: Ireland/UK. 129 min. Rated: R.
With: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Gavin Friday & Bryan Ferry.

The hero of Neil Jordan's social satire is a man who passes as a woman, not unlike the hero(ine) of Jordanís thriller The Crying Game. Audiences will also recognize - again from the latter - the Troubles of Northern Ireland as a dramatic backdrop. Here, Jordan employs Almodóvar-like costuming, fast-paced editing and even some special effects in the episodic adventures of Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy), the illegitimate child of Father Bernard (Liam Neeson) and his maid (Eily Bergin), who abandons Patrick at the priestís doorstep. Father Bernard, in turn, hands the babe over to a foster family.

First as an adolescent and then a teenager, Patrick alienates his foster family by cross-dressing and collecting odd friends. Unwelcome, Patrick runs off to 1970s London in search of his long-lost mother, falling into one escapade after another. His first boyfriend, the lead singer in a glam-rock band (Gavin Friday), runs weapons for the IRA. One of Patrickís crazy tricks almost strangles him. Later, he does a stint as a magician's assistant, and so on. It's only during the magician episode that the storytelling slows down long enough for the actors to act. That an older magician (Stephen Rea), who makes a living by creating illusion, takes up with the younger Patrick, who creates an illusion of being a fetching young woman in the mold of his idol Mitzi Gaynor, is contrived. As do all of Patrickís liaisons, this relationship seems sexless, more a matter of the elder taking care of the younger. But at least it's better acted than most of the filmís chapters. And regrettably, the script tacks on a feel-good, alternative-family ending, which breaks the satiric mood.

The message seems to be that we - Patrick's foster family, the IRA, the law-enforcement officials - all take ourselves too seriously; we should just learn to relax and purr, like Patrick. "Oh, serious, serious, serious!" is Patrick's velvety refrain. In the filmís beginning and ending, two red-breasted robins expound on the story (their sing-song language is translated for us in subtitles). The robins echo Patrick/Kitten's refrain with an Oscar Wilde aphorism, "I love talking about nothing ...It's the only thing I know anything about." Unfortunately, Breakfast on Pluto is too chock-full of episodes with broad-stroke characters to engage us. After the first 60 minutes - it clocks in at 129 - I even stopped caring whether pretty boy Cillian Murphy pulls off a transgender character. He doesn't. But that may have more to do with the script and direction than Murphy. Steven Cordova, contributing editor and poet (Slow Dissolve, Momotombo Press)
November 12, 2005

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