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Michelle Thomas

Published January 17th, 2006 | by Michelle Thomas

Breakfast On Pluto Review

Classification: 15 Director: Neil Jordan Rating: 3.5/5

Hmmm. Neil Jordan. A quick search of the IMDB brings up a back catalogue that includes the highs (In The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, Interview With The Vampire), the lows (We’re No Angels) and the simply odd (High Spirits), and also reminds you that he did direct some bloody good films back in the 80s before making a return to novel writing, which may explain his recent absence from the world of cinema. Jordan typified the British film industry’s high hopes in the 80’s – he was part of its much vaunted, short lived renaissance, centred around Nik Powell and Stephen Woolley’s Palace Pictures, who were distributing cool and interesting films by directors including John Cassavetes, the Coen brothers and John Waters, Mike Leigh, Peter Greenaway, Fassbinder, Oshima, Bertolucci and Sam Raimi. Ah happy days…

Jordan went off to Hollywood, but now returns to his native Ireland, and his more typical themes (forbidden sexual desire, the price of love, politics) first explored in Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, with Breakfast on Pluto.

The story of Patrick Braden(Murphy), a foundling growing up in a small Irish town in the 1960s. Aware from a young age that he is not like other boys, we see Patrick develop his sewing skills and his fondness for dressing up until by the time he leaves school he is becoming the beautiful, androgynous Kitten. Life on the border with Northern Ireland is depressing, but Kitten refuses to let things get him down. He lives vicariously through television and comics, dramatising himself and his lost mother, and forms a close bond with the town’s misfits: Charlie (Negga), an adopted black girl, her boyfriend Irwin (Laurence Kinlan) and Lawrence (Seamus Reilly), a young boy with Downs Syndrome who shares Kitten’s sense of optimism.

Frustrated and bored, with no interest in the Troubles, Kitten hits the road in search of his mother and a life less ‘serious’. He hooks up with ‘Billy Hatchet and The Mohawks’, and, captivated by Billy (Friday), joins the band. After a brief stint as guest vocalist, Kitten is expelled from the band in a near riot, but Billy esconses her in a caravan by the sea, and Kitten is in domestic bliss, until he finds a weapons cache and realises that Billy lives a double life. Fleeing ‘seriousness’, violence, and the IRA, Kitten moves to London, where 1970’s glam-rock androgyny suits Kitten down to the ground. She just needs to find love – and stop looking in all the wrong places.

A bold, picaresque tale, based on the novel by Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto works because of Cillian Murphy’s bravura performance as the polymorphously perverse Kitten. A potentially maddening character, Kitten is equally captivating and aggravating: affectionate and sweet, but infuriating in her refusal to be ‘serious’, ie deal with reality – typified by her desire, when arrested, to stay permanently in prison even though she’s innocent ‘I just want to belong!’ – Kitten should be absurd, but Murphy makes her touching, and pitiful. Murphy underlines Kitten’s romanticism, her longing for love, and her underlying sadness. He also brings out the funny side of her story, and the way that she always manages to bounce back. Kitten’s innate goodness transforms her world – she remakes it in her own image, and triumphs in the end. He also looks fantastic as a blonde.

Supporting Murphy are some of Ireland’s finest actors including Liam Neeson as Kitten’s father, the parish priest Father Liam, Brendan Gleeson as a Great Uncle Bulgaria and Stephen Rea as a magician who takes Kitten under his wing, as well as Eva Birthistle as Kitten’s mother and Ian Hart as a kindly policeman.

Related:
Neil Jordan interview


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