3.5 Stars (R)
Cillian Murphy as Patrick; Laurence Kinlan (right) as Irwin
Remember Dil, the exotic beauty at the center of Neil Jordan's The Crying Game? There was an otherworldly quality to Dil which made it easy to understand why the two lead male characters in the story behaved the way they did. In Breakfast on Pluto, Jordan visits turf similar to that trod in The Crying Game and introduces a character reminiscent of Dil. But this time the focus is not on the captivated men but on the beauty with the otherworldly quality.
The two films are quite different in tone. While The Crying Game was a political thriller and romance, Breakfast on Pluto is a biography and adventure story with quirks galore that somehow manages to be both gritty and dreamlike. The peculiar goings-on are accented by a wild selection of oft-derided oldies - ranging from Morris Albert's "Feelings" to Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" - that are treated with utter reverence. Early in the proceedings, Jordan also includes musical highlights that sound as if they were nicked from a '50s American sitcom. Oh, and the opening and closing of the film includes conversation between birds, subtitled to let us in on their gossipy comments.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I should stress at this point that the movie is more than an assemblage of curious elements. Jordan, re-teamed with his The Butcher Boy collaborator Patrick McCabe, has crafted a beguiling portrait of a survivor who drifts in and out of the mainstream without ever being absorbed by it.
Patrick "Kitten" Braden - beautifully played Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later and Red Eye - is a sweet, wistful young man who realizes early on that he is drawn to the clothing of women and the company of men. SPOILER ALERT: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS BASIC PLOT POINTS OF THE FILM: Father Bernard (Liam Neeson), the parish priest in a '60s Irish village, found him as a baby, left in a basket on the doorstep of the rectory.
Amiably defiant as a child, Patrick's adventures begin in earnest as a teen-ager, when he is rescued from some local toughs by a group of trippy bikers, one of whom enthralls him with promises of a mystic journey that includes "breakfast on Pluto." His traveling lands him with Billy (Gavin Friday), the lead singer of a rock band with a theatrical bent. Patrick becomes Billy's lover and part of the show. When he discovers a cache of I.R.A. weapons under the floorboards of the band's beat-up trailer, he dumps them in the river without a moment's hesitation. Uh-oh.
The wandering continues. After a stint working in costume at a children's theme park, Patrick ends up becoming a magician's assistant to Bertie (Stephen Rea of Crying Game). Along the way, he searches for his mother, whom he calls the Phantom Lady.
Throughout it all, Patrick ... Kitten, remains consistently pleasant, if a bit distracted, as if his attention was divided between the world we know and some other place. When he is taken into custody following a nightclub bombing and harshly interrogated for days, he offers a fanciful statement in which he is the kind of black leather-clad secret agent that would have nicely fit on The Avengers. Finally released by the police, he begs them to let him stay in jail. END SPOILERS.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Throughout his journey, Patrick suffers, but never succumbs, always remaining true to himself. He is surrounded by a violent culture, but refuses to become part of it, electing instead to remain in a kinder, more poetic land cobbled together from the stories and songs of his youth. He perseveres because he refuses to play. Men that might otherwise throttle him come to his rescue instead, recognizing his status as a noncombatant.
Does life ever work this way? I don't think so, but thankfully, we can always go to the movies and spend as much time as we wish in places where everyone can find adventure, acceptance and lighting that highlights the features.