Review: Breakfast on Pluto

Neil Jordan’s film is an odd, at times off-putting mixture of camp inflection and earnest insight.

Breakfast on Pluto
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

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.

Score: 
 Cast: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Conor McEvoy, Gavin Friday, Ian Hart, Eva Birthistle, Ruth McCabe, Steven Waddington  Director: Neil Jordan  Screenwriter: Neil Jordan, Patrick McCabe  Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics  Running Time: 135 min  Rating: R  Year: 2005  Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Book

Keith Uhlich

Keith Uhlich is a writer living in Brooklyn. His work has been published in The Hollywood Reporter, BBC, and Reverse Shot, among other publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle.

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