An odd, at times off-putting mixture of camp inflection and earnest insight, Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto initially threatens to play out as an Irish Forrest Gump what with two decades’ worth of Irish/English politicking, music history, and sexual revolution conflated and filtered through the whimsical viewpoint of transvestite Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy). It doesn’t fully shake that dreadful possibility until two-thirds of the way through when Patrick, interrogated by two policeman who think he’s bombed a London nightclub, spins a yarn in which he single-handedly takes out a cadre of terrorists using only a bottle of Chanel No. 5. It’s the sequence that effectively unifies this endearing mess of a movie (a Jordan specialty, save for a few outstanding examples) and brings it thematically closer to the director’s stated influence—Voltaire’s seminal satire Candide. Up until then the film gets by on its best-of-all-possible-worlds casting. Jordan regulars Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea act as subtle rejoinders to several of Pluto‘s overwrought flights of fancy (the cringe-worthy standout: the digital robins who chirp in subtitles about Mitzi Gaynor and Oscar Wilde) and the director’s droll acuity is apparent in the cameo appearances by Brendan Gleeson (as a rage-prone amusement park employee) and Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry (as a murder-minded john). Murphy’s performance, like the movie, gets better as it goes along, and he’s especially affecting in the climactic scenes where Patrick seeks out the mother he never knew and realizes that certain truths are better left unsaid.
Time constraints prevent me from doing a full reevaluation of Breakfast on Pluto. Suffice to say that the film stuck strongly in my mind after my initial mixed reaction and I would rate it much higher now. Indeed, on the ballot I submitted to The Village Voice's Take 7 Film Poll I ended up singling out most of the supporting actors for end-of-the-year kudos. Barring Cillian Murphy, whose brave work here is growing on me, though still seems a bit at odds with Neil Jordan's conception of the piece, I don't think there was a better cast film last year, and revisiting the film on DVD has only heightened my appreciation of it and all involved. Breakfast on Pluto is presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 transfer that is appropriately bright and blooming (check out the reds during Liam Neeson's strip-club confessional!) though an occasional single-frame speckle intrudes here and there. The only audio option is an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that does more than ample justice to the period pop-music score and sound design.
The most noteworthy extra is an audio commentary with Neil Jordan and Cillian Murphy. Initially it sounds as if the two were recorded separately, though they eventually start conversing about a third of the way through. Jordan is the more erudite participant, Murphy the more reserved, though they do relate some historical points of note that help to contextualize the film's Irish/English period setting. A behind-the-scenes featurette, running about 10 minutes, is your standard, mildly uninteresting puff piece and the disc also includes 14 trailers (though Pluto's is nowhere to be found) for Sony Pictures films and acquisitions.
Make your way toward Pluto and don't forget your bottle of Chanel No. 5!