Breakfast on Pluto (2005) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for strong language, sexuality, brief nudity, drug use and violence
Running Time: 135 min.

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Lawrence Kinlan, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Gavin Friday, Steven Waddington, Conor McEvoy, Ian Hart, Eva Birthistle, Sid Young, Bryan Ferry
Director: Neil Jordan
Screenplay: Neil Jordan (based on the novel by Patrick McCabe)
Review published June 15, 2006

Based on the 1998 novel by Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto tells the strange odyssey of Irish transvestite Patrick Braden (Murphy, Red Eye), abandoned as a baby to an a life of foster care by his mother, growing up with a desire to be a woman, dressing up in women’s attire and make-up, and changing his name to feminine things like “Paddy” or “Kitten” (changed from “Pussy” in the book).  Set mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, Kitten leaves home in search for his mother, reportedly a dead ringer for actress Mitzi Gaynor, and in his search, lives an interesting life that includes singing for a rock band, acting in the children’s park theatre, walking the streets as a prostitute, and tantalizing the men in a peep show.  Life isn’t all fun and games for Kitten, as the Irish conflict is just taking hold, with guns being smuggled in and out by members of the IRA, who also are responsible for rash of bombings throughout the cities that impacts his life in many unfortunate ways.


This film version plays out as a pseudo-biography, complete with chapter headers before each segment, episodic in approach, but always continuing its themes of self-awareness, search for identity, and the retention of individuality even in the most trying of circumstances.  Like many of the recent films by Neil Jordan (The Good Thief, The End of the Affair), the richness comes in the quirky characterizations and lush cinematography.  Even if the story is too odd to ever resonate with most viewers, the constant changes of scenery and many new developments will probably keep your attention.  


Jordan is a director known for taking great chances with films, sometimes striking a chord and sometimes just striking out.  While Breakfast on Pluto will probably have a limited audience for which the story will truly be personally meaningful, it is still an entertaining and thoughtful character study of one very eccentric and mixed-up person.  Needless to say, not everyone will want to see a movie about an outlandish and flamboyant cross-dresser, so mileage will certainly vary in this regard.


As solid as Jordan’s direction and character details may be, it is really Cillian Murphy’s terrific performance that sells the film, with a vulnerability and sense of heartbreak underneath the effervescent persona that gives us a glimpse as to why Patrick may choose to hide who he really is under many disguises and personas.  Sometimes even the personas aren’t enough to escape, as Kitten imagines being somewhere else entirely, enjoying “breakfast on Pluto”, when the Earthly pressures and vicious realities of terrorism and oppression prove to be overwhelming to endure. 


For all of its strengths, there still remains a certain disconnect in getting us to feel we truly know Kitten, who is wrapped under layer upon layer of mercurial behavior and defense mechanisms, that we can only catch glimpses here and there of just who he must really be inside.  It’s fun in parts, tragic in others, but always interesting, making this worth seeking out for fans of Jordan, Murphy, or just outlandishly quirky character pieces in general.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo