Breakfast on Pluto (2005)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Ruth Negga, Gavin Friday

Directed by: Neil Jordan

Rating: 1 2 3 4

'I'm one of those boys
Who plays with girls toys...'

Robin Black and the Intergalactic Allstars, More Effeminate Than You
Cillian Murphy as Kitten in Breakfast on Pluto

What do you get if you cross hard-hitting IRA drama The Name of the Father with frothy glam slash fan fiction Velvet Goldmine? Give up? You get Breakfast on Pluto, the new film from The Crying Game's Neil Jordan. Like The Crying Game, this new release dresses up the Troubles in stockings and suspenders to create a fascinating but occasionally uneven mix of grim social realism and glittering escapist fantasy.

Patrick 'Kitten' Braden has little reason to smile. Would you, if you were a waif like foundling, born out of wedlock and abandoned at birth to be brought up by an unsympathetic and unloving foster mother? Would you, if grew up to be a flamboyant transvestite trapped in a provincial town in 1960s Ireland, the only gay in the village and then some? Would you, if you'd seen your friends blown up or executed by the IRA? If you'd lost the love of your life and ended up sleeping rough on the streets of London, your only career options a choice between selling your body or dressing up as a giant Womble?

Yet, like Mrs Norman Major, Sally Bowles, Charity Hope Valentine and all those other marvellous iconic divas who knew that at all costs, the show must go on, Kitten keeps on smiling. because he knows that if he stops, he'll cry and cry forever. Throughout the film, our insouciant hero is berated for not taking things seriously. Yet life for Kitten is deadly serious - so all the more reason to treat it lightly.

Brendan Gleeson as John-Joe in Breakfast on Pluto

Kicked out of by his mother (and we can't entirely blame her for this - he may be our hero but he isn't always nice), Kitten decides to go in search of his real mother, who, we are told, bears a startling resemblance to the 1950s film star Mitzi Gaynor. And so he embarks on a series of picaresque adventures that lead him, via a hilarious glam rock dalliance with Sweet cover band Barry Hatchet and the Mohawks, to the mean streets of London, where he encounters a string of increasingly weird and wonderful characters. Yet from Brendan Gleeson's semi-psychotic jobbing actor John-Joe to Stephen Rea's vaguely creepy magician, the Amazing Bertie, no-one seems immune to his camp flirtatious charm and off the wall outlook - even a pair of aggressive, bigoted London cops find themselves eventually worn down by our unlikely hero's blithe craziness.

In the reimagined world Kitten inhabits (kind of like the real world, but with more sequins and romance), his mother is 'The Phantom Lady', and his quest to find her becomes a mystic journey into the unknown. Seemingly unphased by the seemingly irredeemable disaster zone which is his life, he bounces from one near death experience to the next with the rubbery resilience of Roger Rabbit (and a similar line in wisecracks). He may not find exactly what he bargained for at the end of the rainbow but. well, I don't want to spoil the ending for you, so let's just say that the resolution to his story is as quirky and original and unexpected as you'd hope.

Cillian Murphy as Kitten and Ruth Negga as his best friend Charlie in Breakfast on Pluto

Cillian Murphy, exploiting his extraordinary looks to the max, simply shines as Kitten: funny, moving, sweet, loyal and occasionally just a bit bitchy, he's like Liza Minnelli trapped in Billy Elliot's body, a glamorous drama queen taking flight from Craggy Island. Shallow as a Big Brother contestant yet at the same time capable of great insight, he is charming, frustrating but ultimately deeply lovable.

Then there are the superb performances from the rest of the respectably starry cast (which includes Liam Neeson as the town's priest - and, it emerges, Kitten's father), the gloriously horrible costumes and the fantastic '70s soundtrack which, like the soundtrack of a Scorsese film, perfectly complements the mood of the movie.

So yes, the film does drag occasionally, some of the dialogue is a bit impenetrable, and the juxtaposition of IRA hard man clichés and high camp comedy doesn't always sit comfortably, but all in all Breakfast on Pluto is a charming, highly entertaining, bittersweet tragic-comedy that deserves to be watched - as Kitten would watch it - through rose tinted spectacles. Enjoy - but whatever you do, don't take it too seriously.

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