Breakfast on Pluto

(2005) *** R
129 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Neil Jordan. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Laurence Kinlan.

"Oh, serious, serious, serious!" —Patrick "Kitten" Braden

Breakfast on Pluto, the picaresque tale of one Patrick "Kitten" Braden, is a larkish ode to fabulousness in the face of solemnity. In 1960s Ireland, growing up effeminately gay is no picnic. The cross-dressing Kitten must contend not only with his personal troubles—including absent parents—but also Ireland's political Troubles, mainfest in random bombings.

From the gauntlet of childhood Catholicism, Kitten's adventures take him on a lifelong search for his mum and dad. On the way, he does stints with a glam-rock outfit called Billy Hatchett and the Mohawks (Gavin Friday plays Billy), a Wombles kiddie theme park (with disgruntled "character" "actor" Brendan Gleeson), and cheeseball magician Bertie (Stephen Rea). Ian Hart pops up as a surprisingly sensitive copper, and Liam Neeson plays the local priest who watched over Kitten in childhood and plays what he knows close to the vestments.

Even when the freewheeling Kitten becomes caught in a crossfire of lust or anger, he maintains a saintly innocence. As the imaginative author of his own tale (narrated to be "Chapters of my Life"), Kitten recalls the lifelong company of tight-knit friends (one, with Down's syndrome, mirrors Kitten's grown-up childishness), dreams of his long-lost mother (said to have looked like Mitzi Gaynor), and condemns "this stupid serious world" for its wanton violence. Though Kitten has occasion to despair when betrayed, his eternally springing optimism enraptures every one he meets, even presumed-to-be-heterosexual men who fall in spite of themselves.

Cillian Murphy is top-notch as Kitten, and director Neil Jordan parades an entertaining supporting cast through Kitten's wonderlands. As with Jordan's exceptional The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto derives from a Patrick McCabe novel, and Jordan and McCabe's screenplay frames the film in 36 Kitten-penned chapters. Though Kitten's repeated aversion to seriousness could be taken as an excuse for the story's somewhat unfocused fancy, the curiously affecting trip is still well-worth taking.

[For Groucho's interview with Breakfast on Pluto director Neil Jordan, click here.]

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Dvd

Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 4/18/2006

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

The handsome, filmlike appearance of Breakfast on Pluto on its Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release is marred only by an insistent hint of dirt. A marvelous screen-specific commentary by Neil Jordan and Cillian Murphy accompanies the film. With nary a lapse, the two cover a lot of ground; for the first fifty minutes, Jordan and Murphy seem to be in entirely different rooms (quite probable), with a voluble Jordan expounding on his stylistic choices, soundtrack selections, and the film's historical and cultural context, and Murphy's comments coming only a sentence or two at a time (he notes, with embarrassment, his dancing).

But then, the two engage in a proper conversation, alluding along the way to at least one deleted scene we don't get on the disc (oh, bother) and more frivolous topics, like the problem with getaway drivers. The disc also includes a rather rote EPK featurette, "Behind the Scenes of Breakfast on Pluto" (8:57), with talking-head interviews of Jordan, Murphy, producer Alan Moloney, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Gavin Friday, and costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh.

Trailers include The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Art School Confidential, Caché, Why We Fight, Capote, The White Countess, Thumbsucker, Junebug, The Passenger, Memoirs of a Geisha, London, The Dying Gaul, The Squid and the Whale, and The Tenants. Kudos to Sony for a lovely presentation, and especially for rounding up the top talent for a great commentary.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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