BREAKFAST ON PLUTO
Abandoned on Father Bernard's (Liam Neeson) doorstep as a baby by his unmarried mother, Patrick Braden (Cillian Murphy) grows up in an Irish household as an outsider - and knows early on that he's 'different'. He is a girl in a boy's body. Unable to fit in and desperate to find his mother, Patrick adopts the nickname Kitten and flees to London of the 70s, where his mother, The Phantom Lady, is believed to have gone. As he searches for her, he encounters kindness and brutality, fun and fear, but he refuses to change for anyone or anything. His few constant friends include Charlie (Ruth Negga) and the man who fathered him finally turns up to help him - if it's not too late.
Review by Louise Keller:
Cillian Murphy gives the performance of his life in Breakfast on Pluto, as he portrays a transvestite in search of his identity with aplomb and endearing mischief. The film may not be the knock out of Neil Jordan's earlier gender-bending themed The Crying Game, but Murphy makes us glad we made the journey that takes us on leaps that are almost intergalactic.
There's more to the woman in the bright red hat pushing a pram than meets the eye in the film's opening scene, as a workman on a building site soon discovers when he whistles a coarse proposition. Adapted from Pat McCabe's novel (who also wrote Jordan's earlier film The Butcher Boy), it's a complex work crammed with a galaxy of colourful characters. If there is one thing that Patrick (Murphy) is sure about, it is his sexuality. 'Call me Kitten,' he coos, totally ignoring his foster mother's repeated mantra ('I am a boy, I am not a girl') when caught dressing up in his stepsister's frock and heels. The story is told in flashback, as Kitten offers his larger-than-life viewpoint and immerses us in his wildly diverse reality.
Confessionals are made for confessions, but Liam Neeson's Father Bernard surprisingly finds his own confessional in a Peep Show in London. Father Bernard, together with Stephen Rea's dart-throwing stage magician Bertie, Gavin Friday's cross-dressing, gun-collecting rock musician and his childhood friend Charlie (Ruth Negga) are some of the key characters we meet along the way.
Divided into 34 chapters of varying length with titles as diverse as 'Revenge', 'On The Street Where You Live?', 'A Fairy Tale,' 'Perfume,' and 'My Showbiz Career 1 & 2,' the film is a road movie of sorts, a coming of age story that is a little weighed down by its 135 minute running time. Music contributes strongly to the narrative, in addition to anchoring the timeframe firmly in the 60s and 70s. Tunes such as For The Good Times, Windmills of Your Mind and Bobby Goldsborough's Honey allow us to understand Kitten's thought process and emotional longings.
Breakfast on Pluto is as complex as its name implies. Riveting, bewildering and often mesmerising, the film is like a swinging door, hinged on Murphy's extraordinary performance.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Roaring with real life, Breakfast on Pluto belongs in that treasured subgenre, the gender bending memoir and reminds me of Augusten Burrows' book, Running With Scissors. If that were made into a film, it might end up a little like this, the American version. Patrick 'Kitty' Braden's chapterised life (very Burrows) begins with a flurry of short excerpts from childhood, where Conor McEvoy displays some remarkably fine acting talent as the 10 year old, worldly wise young would-be transvestite whose life in a stern Irish community is a daily agony - except this kid refuses to see it that way, using his sense of humour and floating spirit to rise above it all. Until he leaves.
This same characteristic saves him from ever being a victim and the film from ever being boring. After all the fun of all his adventures, it gets down to the serious business of moving us. Serious is a concept that chases Kitty all his life - and only rarely does he allow it to catch up with him. But when it does, we respond with all the understanding that the film makes possible.
Neil Jordan's superb direction makes this film a real pleasure as it blasts away at human frailty in every frame, while at the same time holding up our nobler virtues in a balancing act that reflects how we live: dangerously.
Cillian Murphy gives a career high performance as Kitten, so silky, so tough, so completely real that it haunts us. His mental and physical submersion generates a unique individual whose motivations and pragmatism shake us with their fearless sincerity. It's a real pleasure to see films that are fresh, original, true and funny, moving, engaging, dramatic, hopeful yet brutally frank about human nature. This is one of those films you want to see again - the mark of a classic.
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BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (M)
CAST: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Conor McEvoy, Gavin Friday, Ian Hart, Ruth McCabe, Steven Waddington, Mark Doherty, Bryan Ferry,
PRODUCER: Neil Jordan, Alan Moloney, Stephen Woolley
DIRECTOR: Neil Jordan
SCRIPT: Neil Jordan (novel Pat McCabe)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Declan Quinn
EDITOR: Tony Lawson
MUSIC: Anna Jordan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Conroy
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 17, 2006