More noise than signal

Breakfast On Pluto

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

If there’s two things I’ve thought missing from modern cinema, two things that we need to see in this world, these things are subtitled robins used as narrative linking devices and Brendan Gleeson in a Womble suit beating people up. In these respects at least, Breakfast On Plutois the most important and necessary work of the last decade.

These crucial spheres aside, it’s not a bad film in general either. Narratively, if you content yourself with the broad details, this is quite straightforward. Left on Father Bernard (Liam Neeson)’s doorstep as a baby, Patrick (Cillian Murphy) grows up into the cross-dressing Kitten. Eventually outgrowing his small home town, he heads off to London to seek out his mother. There. Easy. Skips lightly over the aforementioned Womble assault, the tour with a band, stint as a magician’s assistant and the arrest on terrorism charges, though.

As the more astute amongst you may have gathered by now, this film is a little Odd. So Odd, in fact, I am forced to capitalise the Odd. Quirky. That’s a good word for it. I’d use Zany, but that would imply it’s an insufferable pile of codswallop whereas Breakfast On Pluto is really rather endearing.

All credit to Cillian Murphy. At this stage in their career there would be many actors that would think twice about taking a couple of ‘bad guy ‘ stints in a row (in Los neuvos Batman and Red Eye) and following them with a gender-bending oddity of a role. It’s a touching performance of a damaged character, and you can feel the hurt in his eyes in certain scenes.

You may perhaps have noticed that this review thus far has been rather light on details that would justify that star rating up top. This is not some experiment in minimalist reviewing techniques, just something of an admission that I’m not exactly sure why it works so well. By all accounts it ought to be something of a mess.

Chapters of Kitten’s life are presented as just that, chapters, with titles prefacing each one despite these segments pretty much running directly on from each other. Why? Search me. Still, it works more often than it doesn’t, and as a shaggy dog biography it’s actually less predictable and sappy than you may expect. Kitten isn’t on some crusade to have his/her lifestyle choices validated by society (in fact everyone’s remarkably open-minded), s/he just wants to know his/her parents. Crivvens. If there’s any more of these transvestite shenanigans over the next year I’ll have to start petitioning for the creation of a new possessive determiner.

What else can I throw at you to get you interested in this film? I understand now why the trailer for this film was so wooly and ill-defined, as it’s almost impossible to nicely bundle into a neat package or soundbite.

Sure, the supporting cast is flawless, although never anywhere near centre stage. The costume and set dressing is evocative of a decade where good taste took a holiday. Neil Jordan’s direction (who’s making something of a career of oddball numbers like this and Pat McCabe adaptations) is steady, assured and well-paced.

All of which is true, but far too dry to have you rushing out to see this in a time when it’s buried under a pile of fresh, tasty Oscar contending releases. Breakfast On Pluto isn’t an Oscar contender, but it’s a bloody interesting, left-field bit of cinema which deserves to be seen. It’s frequently very funny indeed, often touching and rarely less than charming. Good-o.

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