Neil Jordan’s ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ (2005)

18Dec06

In a rare occurrence, this film’s previews sparked my desire to see it. Granted the film is strange, but the previews made it seem even stranger. In other words, I expected to see a lot of drug-induced hallucinations. And while I did not dislike the film, I struggled to engage with the characters.

Cillian Murphy attracted attention from stateside audiences with roles like Scarecrow/Dr. Crane in Batman Begins and Jackson Rippner in Red Eye. In the case of Breakfast on Pluto, Murphy uses his razor-sharp cheekbones and androgynous appearance to deliver a pretty convincing portrayal of a unswervingly optimistic gay transvestite. The one fault of his performance? His apparent unwillingness to kiss another male actor. Sure, he creates some chemistry with Gavin Friday in particular, but Jordan does not require any intimate contact. In fact, the most romantic scenes between Kitten and his love interests tend to occur outside with the characters wearing heavy overcoats. Sexy, right? In the interview of Murphy included on the DVD, Murphy makes a point to mention that he differs from Kitten in the area of sexuality, which suggests that Murphy is not the most gay-friendly of individuals.

I struggle to pinpoint what exactly didn’t click for me with this film. It is very episodic and sometimes I didn’t think that the transitions between episodes were very effective. For example, Charlie pulls Kitten out of his magic act with Bernie; Bernie chases them for two seconds and then we never see him again. Considering that he basically told Kitten that he loved him, I have difficulty believing that Bernie would say to himself, “Huh. I chased him for half-a-block. I guess I can let him go now.”

The momentum in the film is generated by people finding Kitten’s optimism and individuality compelling, but oftentimes the connection between Kitten and various characters felt forced. I blame this misstep on the script or editing rather than Murphy’s performance. Though perhaps Murphy does share some of the blame. I found Kitten’s nonsexual relationships – namely Charlie, John Joe, and Father Liam – most believable, which might suggest that Murphy’s failure to embrace homoeroticism more fully deteriorated those sexually charged connections.

Speaking of Father Liam, I wish that more time had been spent on developing that relationship between him and Kitten. I like that Father Liam becomes a keeper of social misfits at the end of the film, but I would have liked to see how he progressed from completely dismissing Kitten at the confessional to coming to London and providing him with Eily Bergin’s address.

I enjoyed the conclusion of Kitten’s search for his mother because it was not a typical Hollywood ending. However, I wish that storyline had had more momentum. Kitten seems to spend an inordinate amount of time fucking around London instead of actually trying to look for his mother, his purported reason for even being in that city.

Jordan explores layers of storytelling within the narrative. Patrick/Kitten narrates as, the audience assumes, the Patrick/Kitten outside of the experiences which he describes. Jordan also uses the viewpoint of two robins to tell bits of the story, and uses some camerawork that mimics a bird’s point of view, e.g. the swooping crane shots in the one of the first scenes in which Father Liam takes baby Patrick to his foster mother. I assumed that these bird bits were separate from Patrick-as-narrator’s retelling of his life, but are they actually woven into Patrick’s memoirs? Patrick-as-character also weaves quite a few stories within the frame of Patrick-as-narrator’s retelling, including that hilarious recounting of his supposed conception.

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