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Breakfast on Pluto

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Finn


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Irish Films Discussion:     Breakfast on Pluto

I am told and to quote this is one fecking weird film. 1 utter bollox 2 shites one brilliant. Not seen but the clips suggest the weird claim is for sure. Brendan Gleeson is meant to be funny in it.

Breakfast on Pluto
Set in the 1970s amidst the eruption of British-Irish conflicts, BREAKFAST ON PLUTO is an "enchanting, poignant, picaresque" (Michael Koresky, Interview Magazine) film from Oscar®-winning director Neil Jordan (1993, The Crying Game, Best Writing; The End of an Affair) that stars 2006 Golden Globe®-nominee Cilian Murphy (Batman Begins) and Oscar®-nominee Liam Neeson (1993 Best Actor, Schindler's List).

Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Murphy) is abandoned as a baby and left on the doorstep of Father Bernard (Neeson). From a very young age, Patrick realizes he is different from the other boys but steadfastly refuses to change. When he grows up, Patrick decides to go in search of his real mother, who now lives in London. Thus begins a touching and funny journey that will lead him to the most unexpected place of all.

"Neil Jordan's colorful yarn...a wonderful roiling comedy...celebrates the power of the imagination" (Stephen Holden, The New York Times).

"**** EXUBERANT, PLAYFUL, SHOCKING!" Glenn Kenny, PREMIERE MAGAZINE

"Neil Jordan's colorful yarn...a wonderful roiling comedy...celebrates the power of imagination." Stephen Holden, THE NEW YORK TIMES



Breakfast on Pluto Summary: Cillian Murphy's Audacious Turn Hampered by Plodding Story Structure and Ill-Used Political Backdrop
Comment: Released in theaters last December at the same time as Duncan Tucker's similarly themed "Transamerica", this latest film from writer-director Neil Jordan unfortunately pales by comparison in sharing the plight of Patrick "Kitten" Braden, a hopelessly romantic transvestite who gets caught up with the IRA in the early 1970's while he looks for his long-lost mother in London. Both movies deal with gender reassignment as a desperate yet inevitable means toward self-fulfillment for the conflicted protagonists. In Jordan's 2005 film, the political backdrop makes for a vibrant, volatile landscape, but Patrick's dilemmas don't provide enough of a counterbalance to make the two halves of the movie meld seamlessly. Part of the problem is that Patrick is conceived as such an oblivious, self-involved character that it's challenging to empathize with his struggle to find either his mother or his identity.

Fortunately, Jordan has cast the brilliant Cillian Murphy to play Patrick in his trademark unsettling manner. However, on a different path from the one he takes as the Scarecrow in "Batman Begins", he uses his chilly style to avoid sentimentalizing his off-kilter character unnecessarily. We follow Patrick from the day his mother leaves him on the steps of the church through his turbulent childhood with an intolerant foster family to a heady romance with Billy Rock, the lead singer of a traveling rockabilly band. It's Billy's clandestine involvement with the IRA that gets Patrick inextricably linked to their revolutionary activities. The band forces Billy to dump Patrick, and he subsequently works as an assistant to Bertie, a magician with a most bloody act, and then as a costumed helper for a theme park character named Uncle Bulgaria. Things hit rock bottom when Patrick hits the streets as a hustler and then as a peep show attraction. This is when the facts of his parentage come to life, and he resolves to confront his past.

As he proved with 1992's "The Crying Game", Jordan is gifted when it comes to establishing the right atmosphere, especially when he sets his stories in his native Ireland. Declan Quinn's saturated camerawork also helps to set the right mood. Even more effective is the judicious used of period-authentic pop music to help move the film along, as does Jordan's playful conceits like the subtitled robins acting as a chorus and breaking the film down into thirty-six chapters with ironic titles. The supporting actors are all strong - Gavin Friday as Billy, Stephen Rea as Bertie, Brendan Gleeson as Uncle Bulgaria, and best of all, Liam Neeson as the emotionally coiled Father Bernard. At 135 minutes, the movie runs on too long in too episodic a fashion, and the ending, while inevitable, rings a bit hollow. But Murphy's turn is worthwhile experiencing mostly for the sheer audacity of his approach. The best feature of the DVD is Jordan's commentary track. Although he is joined by Murphy, Jordan dominates with his insights and anecdotes. There is also a brief, none-too-interesting making-of featurette included.

Breakfast on Pluto Summary: An interesting film....
Comment: Two different movies came to mind as I was watching this film - The Crying Game and Velvet Goldmine...both of which I loved, for completely different reasons. Overall, I think Breakfast on Pluto captured the essence of what it was trying to accomplish - expose the fragility and equal toughness of the main character, Kitten. Cillian Murphy is quite the chameleon when it comes to acting and I look forward to his future work.

Positives:
* You really feel for Kitten and want him/her to succeed in finding happiness, whether that's finally locating his/her mother or finding love.
* A great supporting cast.
* The music is fun (although the music in Velvet Goldmine is much better).

Now a couple of negatives:
* I thought he sounded like Mrs. Doubtfire and at times I had a hard time getting past that, although you do get used to it as the movie develops.
* There were too many storylines, which left some questions unanswered. Now I realize that was to show the development of the character and how s/he came to be where s/he is today, but I still felt a sense of incompleteness.

Overall, I liked this movie - I think I'll watch it again.

Breakfast on Pluto Summary: "I could fall for a gal like you"
Comment: It isn't easy being Patrick "Kitten" Braden, an effeminate young boy who likes to dress up in his mother's clothes and pop on some lippy. But he has a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for story telling, and it is these qualities that allow him to cope with growing up in the puritanical Ireland of the 1960's and 70's, where everyone either labels him as different or some kind of harbinger of the devil.

Ma Braden (Ruth McCabe) curses the day she took the deviant infant in when he was left on the doorstep of a presbytery. Taken in by the parish priest (Liam Neeson) Patrick is raised by the elderly Ma Braden who is infuriated by this wayward and unusual boy. Patrick realizes that anyone who doesn't like the fact that he cross-dresses just can't be his mother. So off he goes to London to search for the mother who deserted him.

The only clue to who she might be is that she bears a striking resemble to Mitzi Gaynor. In his mind's eye, he envisions her in soft blond curls riding on a red trolley car, and she becomes almost a mythical figure to him. Patrick's search is at a time of extreme conflict between the Irish Republican Army and British military and even though Patrick/Kitten abhors violence; he appears chameleon-like during harrowing moments and gets himself in all sorts of terrible situations.

Breakfast on Pluto has a lovely bouncy ebullience - courtesy of a terrific period soundtrack - and the dashes of fantasy are beautifully melded into the film's quirky humor and quick-witted irreverence. But the film is very episodic and a little over-long for this type of material. The pacing is good, and the narrative is broken up into lots of short, sharp vignettes that never allow the movie to sag; yet the essential conceit of Patrick constantly looking for unconditional love does get a bit repetitive.

It is the amazing Cillian Murphy who holds this film together and he is nothing short of astounding, and he also should have received an Oscar nomination. The irony is that in many of the drag scenes he looks better as a woman than as a man! It's a charming, understated performance, with Murphy expressing his character's androgyny as if it's the most natural thing in the world.

The supporting players also provide richly nuanced roles: Ruth Negga is excellent as Charlie who accepts Patrick without question and Stephen Rea is also good as Bertie the Magician, a sweetly sad middle-aged man who takes wandering Patrick under his wing. Punk-rock pioneer Gavin Friday is amusing as a '70s glam-rocker who also cares for Patrick along the way. Bryan Ferry shows up as a "john" with evil intentions, and Brendan Gleeson also gets in on the act as Uncle Bulgaria, who convinces Patrick to join him working as one of the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.

Although Breakfast on Pluto was released at the same time Transamerica, it was Transamerica that got most of the accolades - it was the better film. Yet, Breakfast On Pluto is still an offbeat delight, jammed with eccentric characters and spot-on performances.

With all the troubles of the 1970's the IRA and the bomb attacks in London, Kitty remains the ultimate optimist, constantly bending reality to suit his own needs, believing that love will conquer all and hoping that one day he will realize his fantasy of finding his long lost mother. Mike Leonard April 06.

Breakfast on Pluto Summary: Even an Irish Nancy boy needs a real mum and dad
Comment: Director Neil Jordan's 1996 film "The Butcher Boy" was based on a novel by Patrick McCabe, and he adapts a second work of the Irish author for the screen with "Breakfast on Pluto." This is the tale of Patrick Braden (Cillian Murphy), who prefers to go by the name "Kitten." As a wee babe Patrick was left on the doorstep of a presbytery in an Irish town, where he was taken in by the parish priest (Liam Neeson) and given over to the local pub owner to raise. One day the young boy dresses up in his step-sister's clothes and that is it. His step-mother threatens to parade him up and down the street to shame the boy, but not only is Patrick an transvestite, he is apparently an exhibitionist as well.

Being a Nancy boy in Ireland is likely to get you killed, which is one reason for Patrick to head to London and complete his transformation into Kitten, but he has another reason. What little he knows about his mum from the local gossips is that she is supposedly in London and looks a bit like Mitzi Gaynor (if you have no more clue about what Mitzi Gaynor looks like than two birds sitting on a window sill, do not worry: a film clip evidences the point). So Kitten arrives in London all dressed up where no place to go, until he meets up with a stage magician named Bertie (Stephen Rea, who is not going to be fooled twice by a transvestite in a Neil Jordan film).

"Breakfast on Pluto" is told in three dozen chapters whose numbers and titles appear on screen (e.g., "Lollipop Ladies," "Deep Water"), as Kitten's quest to find his mother leads to other adventures and discoveries. But even more important than what I assume are the chapter titles from McCabe's book are the 1960s and 1970s songs that provide musical counterpoints to the developments in the story. There is something of a preference for the work of Harry Nielsen (always great to hear "Me and My Arrow"), but there are bonus points for using the Lee Hazlewood song "Sand" as a duet for Murphy and Gavin Friday, who plays Billy Hatchet, the singer of a band that Kitten hooks up with early on in the film. This is a soundtrack that makes everything from "Windmills of Your Mind" and "Feeling" to "Children of the Revolution" and "Fly Robin Fly" work, and makes sure characters get the lyrics right to "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window."

There are a lot of movies in which an orphan goes off in search of a parent, and a lot of pitfalls as to what happens when the big moment comes. I like the way "Breakfast on Pluto" plays this out and manages to preserve most of Kitten's aura of innocence, even when he is forced to become a street prostitute (compare what happens here with what we see with the same situation in "Mysterious Skin"). Kitten does not need much to be happy in this world, but then the odds are not favorable in that regard. If you are looking for a comparable character in contemporary films to Kitten it is not the cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain" or the transsexual in "Transamerica," but Angel from "Rent." Kitten lacks the bravado and self-confidence of Angel, but they are kindred spirits, which is a pretty good recommendation in and of itself.

Breakfast on Pluto Summary: An Odyssey of a Visual and Emotional Feast!
Comment: BREAKFAST ON PLUTO is now on DVD and perhaps that will garner the larger audience it deserves after its scant art house run on the big screen. In every way this is a tender, sensitive, sweet story, full of hope, faith, indefatigable courage and persistence that is embellished by a first class performance by the gifted Cillian Murphy.

Ireland, late 50s early 60s, and a child is left abandoned on the doorstep of the local priest (Liam Neeson). The priest hurriedly places the infant with a foster mother and we watch the little boy Patrick Braden slowly grow into a cross-dressing child with outsider friends, loathed by his adopted mother to the point where he is unable to cope with life as a lie and makes off to London as a transvestite gay man (now going by the name 'Kitten Braden'). He hopes to find his birth mother and his search leads him through the dregs of London, the city that 'swallowed up' his real mother, becoming involved with the seamier side of the city, jailed mistakenly, becoming an apprentice to a magician (Stephen Rea), a cabaret singer, etc until he finally makes the discovery of his beginnings - his true parents - and his journey to find happiness ends sweetly.

The entire cast of this long (over two hours) film is so fine that never for an instant does the pace of the tale let up. The cinematography by Declan Quinn is splendid, the costumes by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh are some of the best recreations of the 70's on film, and the musical score by Anna Jordan mixes her own creations with the wonderful tunes from the era and the result is brilliantly integrated into the film. Director Neil Jordan adapted the screenplay from Patrick McCabe's fine novel and finds all the magic and makes it visual. But in the long run if we are unable to identify and care about Patrick 'Kitten' Braden the movie would seem silly. Cillian Murphy is such an honest actor (having spent time pre-production living with transvestites about whom he speaks so tenderly in the featurette) and gives a multifaceted, glitteringly fine performance. This is a fun, entertaining, and important film. Highly Recommended for all audiences! Grady Harp, April 06

Editorial Reviews Breakfast on Pluto:

Both epic and intimate, Breakfast on Pluto uses the life of Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins), a queer orphan boy, to explore the hidden worlds that lie beneath so-called "normal" society--the subcultures of homosexuals, the Irish Republican Army, and prostitutes. At odds with his conservative Irish town, Patrick rebels with the fearlessness of someone whose life feels worthless. When he leaves for London, where he hopes to find his mother, he joins a touring rock band, is almost murdered, becomes assistant to a magician (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game), is arrested as an IRA terrorist, and joins a peep show--and those are only half of the markers on his odyssey (the movie struggles to encompass the novel by Patrick McCabe). Though the first half of the movie feel almost weightless in the headlong rush of events, a rich emotional heft sneaks up on you; by the end, Breakfast on Pluto has become almost unbearably sad and wonderfully buoyant. Murphy's superb performance is both delicate and willful, ably supported by an excellent cast, including Liam Neeson (Kinsey), Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), and Ian Hart (Backbeat), as well as rock stars Gavin Friday and Bryan Ferry (who has a particularly creepy cameo as a serial killer). --Bret Fetzer


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