Breakfast On Pluto Movie Review: The Strange and Exotic Tale of Patrick Kitten Braden

With a line like "If I wasn't a transvestite terrorist, would you marry me?" at least you know Kitten won't bore you.
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Breakfast On Pluto (2005) based on the novel of the same name by Patrick McCabe is directed by Neil Jordan and stars Cillian Murphy as the unique Patrick "Kitten" Braden. This is a really peculiar mixture of coming of age, personal discovery, picaresque, moral tale, fairy tale, oblique political commentary, and hagiography. The opening shot shows Kitten in full regalia pushing a pram down the street and being accosted by construction workers whose lewd cat-calls she responds to with pointed poise. It then loops back on itself to the very beginning of the tale where we are shown a bassinet getting left on the doorstep of Father Liam (Liam Neeson) and the soft-spoken voiceover of Kitten is taken over by a pair of robins in true fairy-tale fashion. The whole narrative is told in similar style, with each scene introduced by a chapter heading that most often has an ironic attitude to the actual events. Patrick Braden as a young boy dresses up in his stepmother's (Ruth McCabe) clothes at the tender age of ten and shows no shame when getting caught. We get to follow him through early fey adolescence and school life right up to the point where he leaves home to go in search of his mother Eily Bergin (Eva Birthistle)who took off for London.

breakfast on plutoHe begins his travels with a rock band and is taken in by the lead singer Billy Hatchett (Gavin Friday) who sets him up in a little caravan that also happens to be a weapons cache for the local IRA. There's a pretty deep relationship there that ends when Kitten throws the entire contents of the cache in a nearby lake after his close friend gets killed in a bombing. After that, Kitten goes to London and starts the next chapter of a life that's very serious and oddly light at the same time. She works as a Womble in a kids theme park, is the assistant to a magician (Stephen Rea), becomes a suspect in a club bombing, and winds up working as prostitute, first on the streets and then in a peep show. In the club Kitten is finally fully evolved into a "svelte gamine" as she describes herself.

The thing about Kitten, apart from where you get pronoun problems trying to talk about him/her, is that there is a kind of innocence about the character that makes her really hard to hurt. Even the two policemen who take her into custody and beat the tar out of her wind up taking care of her, wishing her well and in general just coming to the realization that there is something unapologetic about her that endears her to you.

Kitten ends up back with her true father, Father Liam, where she helps take care of her best friend Charlie (Ruth Negga) who is pregnant by Irwin (Laurence Kinlan) who has been killed by the IRA for treason. The three stay at the rectory, which riles up the locals to the point where they set fire to the church. Father Liam wakes up in time to save Charlie and Kitten. We finally end where we began, in London with Kitten pushing a pram, being herself, which is more of a miracle than you'd think considering how much violence and heartache she's been through without ever losing that central trait that makes her who she is, without bitterness. There are many instances where you, as a viewer, sit on the edge of your seat, thinking "this will never end well", like when Kitten gets picked up by a gentleman who tries to throttle her in typical serial-killer fashion (Bryan Ferry) when she's looking for love in all the wrong places.

Cillian Murphy plays Kitten with this wide-eyed, love-starved openness that shows just how talented he really is, especially since it's such a contrast to the roles he typically plays. Consider just the fact that Kitten never raises her voice once in the whole story, not even when she's standing in a freshly dug hole with two armed IRA members behind her debating whether to shoot her or not. Liam Neeson makes a surprisingly big imprint on this, despite having relatively little screen time. Father Liam's compassion and struggle comes through, especially when he tries to reconnect with  his wayward son in a scene that recalls Wim Wender's Paris, Texas (1984). There are always a lot of characters in Jordan's movies, like the drunken, belligerent Womble John Joe (Brendan Gleeson) or the tough-guy softy PC Wallis (Ian Hart), which adds to the richness of the tapestry.

The overall impression is difficult to cut down to a line or two when there is so much going on, so many threads to tug at, and that's sort of the point. You have to meet Kitten on her terms, otherwise this whole tale is going to grate. It is a carefully created persona that straddles the androgynous divide, hyper feminine in some aspects to the point of absurdity, but this is still not a man trying to be a woman, Kitten isn't looking to fool anyone. There is not a single onscreen kiss that is not as chaste as an aunt's light peck on the cheek, which is probably for the best seeing as how that could easily have pushed this out of bounds and made it just seedy sensation-seeking. As eccentric as the narrative style is, it manages to be unique and it veers away from the luridness that could end up in a kind of grotesque horror. There is a lot going on, as you will discover if you venture into Kitten's world, complete with small excursions into her elaborate fantasies, but if nothing else, you will at least be entertained throughout.

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