In three words or more: Turning this Serious World into a Fairytale
Take Voltaire’s Candide, place him in a 1960’s Ireland plagued by the Irish Republican Army , throw in a couple of high hills, a dozen flamboyant dresses, and don’t forget to add a touch of Alice in Wonderland‘s folly. The result is Patricia “Kitten” Braden (Cilian Murphy), the irresistible transgender protagonist of Breakfast on Pluto.
Framed as an autobiography of her life, the movie opens with Kitten’s deep but gentle voice explaining the circumstances under which she was born. I usually consider the presence of narrators a sign of laziness on the director’s part, and am skeptical of their use, as it distracts the audience without contributing to the plot. However, Kitten’s performance surprised me: Her voice is authentic and unique, captivating the viewer and ushering him into her world.
The autobiographical quality of Breakfast on Pluto is enhanced through the use of chapter headings that divide Kitten’s life into sections, similarly to the chapters of a book. Coincidentally, Breakfast on Pluto is based on the homonymous novel by Patrick Mc Cabe, who collaborated with director Neil Jordan in writing the screenplay. However, the movie lacks the overt sexuality of the story: while the original Patrick liked to be called “Pussy” and engaged in all sorts of immoral activity, the more prude Kitten doesn’t even dare to kiss the people she loves. Nonetheless, she makes up for it by concocting wacky side- stories. For instance, Kitten imagines herself transforming into a leather-dressed spy which defeats I.R.A. bombers with the help of a Coco Chanel perfume.
For those who have seen one of Neil Jordan’s previous works, The Crying Game, some of the themes discussed in Breakfast on Pluto will sound familiar. However, Breakfast is far from being “the Crying Game redux,” as Stephen Holden had dubbed it in his review on The New York Times. While the two movies both narrate the story of a transgender character and use the I.R.A. as a backdrop, the Crying Game lacks the talent of Cilian Murphy. The actor’s performance as Kitten puts a new spin onto Jordan’s repertoire, turning what could have tasted like stale bread into a refreshing laughing game. Incredibly at ease in his role, Cilian bolsters the script with sensuality and startling blue eyes, never lapsing into the stereotype of the effeminate freak. Additionally, this role confirms him as one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, considering that he had last appeared on screen as the evil –and masculine – plane hijacker in the Red Eye.
Ultimately, Cilian Murphy is not the only reason to see this movie, which stands out for its cinematic techniques. For instance, Kitten’s emotions are enhanced through the use of soft focus, which consists in the blurring of the frame or parts of it. Another aptly used device is overexposure, a technique which creates a light hue brightening each shot, imbuing them with a heaven-like quality.
Aesthetically, Breakfast is also notable for its editing, which is well thought out and demonstrates the director’s familiarity with the Kuleshov effect. Inspired by the Russian directors of the 1920’s, Neil Jordan cuts from disparate images that seem to have no spatial or temporal connection, but are linked on a deeper level that speaks to the viewer’s subconscious. This device enables the emotional tension to reach its epitome, and might shed a tear from even the driest and most stoic eyes.
If there is a soft spot in this movie, it’s definitely the length: (2 hours and 9 minutes). Fortunately, however, the combination of Jordan’s unorthodox creativity and Cilian’s charm bend reality – and time – as easily as they were made of play doh. Birds talk through the aid of subtitles, and priests make love with cleaning ladies who resemble the famous American actress Mitzi Gaynor. Then there’s Praticia “Kitten” Braden, who doesn’t let herself be worried by this “serious, serious” world, thus incurring into serious, serious trouble. For instance, she has the “brilliant” idea of throwing her lover’s guns into a nearby lake during a burst of “spring cleaning.” Too bad the weapons belong to the I.R.A., who is ready to kill to get them back. Unsurprisingly, Billy is terrorized, and runs for his life. Surprisingly, however, Kitten’s life is spared. Have the I.R.A. become tender-hearted? Not really. The reason? I guess you’ll have to watch the movie, if you want to find out…
Unscathed, Kitten then proceeds to explore London, the city in which her mother supposedly lives. There, our hero gives yet another demonstration of her unworldliness by bickering with a woman who argues that the pavement has got her name on it. “What is it, Concrete?” inquires Kitten, oblivious to the fact she’s talking to a prostitute. She then unwittingly steals Concrete’s next client, who almost strangles her, but is saved by quick reflexes and her lucky weapon – perfume. At this point, the audience is righteously worried that Kitten won’t survive the journey, and they cringe when she trusts the umpteenth stranger. Will Kitten meet her mother, and will she ever find someone who truly understands her? Maybe, like Candide, Kitten and her audience will have to admit that ours isn’t the best of possible worlds. But give this movie a try, and you might discover that, although this world might sometimes be intimidating, or utterly disappointing, there’s a rich breakfast waiting for you…
…on the “icy and mysterious wastes of Pluto.”
The Movie: Breakfast on Pluto