Breakfast on Pluto (15)
Time Out says
Mon Jan 9 2006Damn and blast the bleeding boring old real world with its prejudices and its sadness and its violence and its dreary old clothes... Neil Jordan’s latest is the wild and wilfully fictional memoir of an introspective, romantic tranvestite who calls himself ‘Kitten’ (Cillian Murphy). Sweeping us from Ireland to London, from rural backwater to the big smoke, Jordan presents this fast-flowing autobiography of a cross-dressing Dick Whittington in brief chapters that speed easily past the eye and are bolstered by a terrific soundtrack that skips from Cole Porter to T.Rex to Slade to ‘The Wombling Song’. It’s breathless stuff – a whirlwind of colour, wit and imagination that is driven by a tender, nuanced central performance of charisma, wit and intelligence from Cillian Murphy.
Abandoned at birth in late ’50s smalltown Ireland, Kitten – real name Patrick – loves to dress in women’s clothes and flounce about the house as a girl, much to the obvious dismay of his foster family. He barely cares what anyone else thinks and employs his own internal monologue of random thoughts and crazy dreams as a wall between him and the silly, ‘serious’ world about him, with its IRA bombs, guns and murders. He’s a bizarre, intoxicating creation and, in turns, a very seductive narrator.
His childhood over, Kitten is soon on the road with a touring glam-rock band, playing Bonnie to the lead-singer’s Clyde and appearing onstage in local community centres, in full drag, as ‘the squaw’ to his new lover’s chief. Always on the move, he crosses the Irish Sea in search of his mother and – once in London – encounters a panto cast of characters. There’s the man (Brendan Gleeson) who dresses up as Womble Uncle Bulgaria to entertain kids; a suave would-be murderer (Bryan Ferry) who lurks in a Jag on a dark side-street and tries to strangle Kitten with a silk neck-tie; a lonely hang-dog magician (Stephen Rea) who falls head-over-heels for him; and a policeman (Ian Hart) who accuses him of terrorism but later delivers him to the relative safe-house of a Soho peep-show parlour.
Is any of this real? Is it hell? And what a very dull question, Kitten might add. ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ is a delightful fairytale that uses the very real world and its hardships – a long-lost mother, terrorism, abuse – as the theatre for much camp playfulness and wish-fulfilment. Jordan – drawing on Patrick McCabe’s novel – gives us a memoir so eventful, so rapid, so brimming over with flights of fancy that we are entranced by Kitten. Everything – and everyone – else is peripheral. Surprisingly – and much to the credit of both Jordan and Murphy – Kitten emerges as more than a fascinating caricature. He’s a splash of vibrant colour within a monochrome world, an antidote to (and reflection on) the Catholicism and conservatism of ’60s and ’70s Ireland and, on a more personal level, a credible reaction to his own abandonment and search for identity. The film’s interests in cross-dressing, performance, the sex industry, our capital’s back alleys, the Troubles, messy childhoods and the journey from Ireland to London will be familiar to those who know ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘The Butcher Boy’, ‘The Crying Game’ and other Jordan films. ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ is a wild, imaginative and daring project that could equally be dismissed as chaotic and indulgent or as wild, imaginative and daring. I’d say it’s all these things – and it’s a hell of a ride for it.
Fri Jan 13, 2006