Friday, December 02, 2005

Breakfast on Pluto - Movie Review (On the Tranny Road - Pt.1)

Breakfast on Pluto 2005

You know, we had been bemoaning the lack of good movies centering on the plight of pre-op transsexuals lately . . . and lo and behold, two of them pop up (no pun intended) in the past week! Our first pre-snip tale is titled “Breakfast on Pluto.”

I. In which we are introduced to our hero / ine, and his / her most unlikely plight.

Breakfast on Pluto” concerns the trials and tribulations of our Irish hero / ine, one Patrick “Kitten” Braden who is literally left abandoned on the neighborhood priest’s doorstep by a desperate mother who is allegedly a ringer for Mitzi Gaynor. And as far as opening scenes go, this one is a corker! We were seduced from the get-go with the swooping camerawork, spot on Seventies soundtrack, and onscreen commentary courtesy of two busybody Robins. While the source material may have been Patrick McCabe’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel, our humble writer / director Neil Jordan pulls out all the stops in adapting the literary to the cinematic. We stand up and collectively cheer Neil for his efforts!

II. A Kitschy Künstlerroman.

Kitten’s life story is one that is never boring, and often difficult to describe without sounding like we have completely gone off the deep end. H / She is raised in a tense home environment by a bellicose foster mother who reminds our hero / ine daily of his / her doleful beginnings. Even as a youth, our Kitten is fully aware of being an outsider. His / Her escape mechanism is one of imagination and idealization of His / Her real mother, whose resemblance to the 50s musical mini-diva, Mitzi Gaynor has inspired Kitten to glam up the daily drudgery with empowering enchantment. Kitten is not one to fret his / her predicament. H / She may have been born a boy, but to hell with that! She will live her life as Kitten, the consequences be damned. (Enough of this H / She shit, we are going to respect Kitten’s wishes, and refer to her as a H-E-R!!!)

As an impoverished Irish lass, Kitten is raised in a politically turbulent time where the IRA is a constant presence. She forges lifetime friendships with three other outsiders, Charlie – a young black girl who will become the rock to Kitten’s roll, Irwin – who will fight to escape his own sadly predictable future, and Laurence – their beloved chum with Down’s syndrome. Kitten and her crew’s adventures take her from the back alleys of her Irish hometown, thru a doomed love affair with a traveling glam-rock band, to her ultimate realization in the streets of London, the town that “swallowed” up her “Phantom Lady.”

III. Whereupon we enumerate the merits of Cast & Crew.

First and foremost, plaudits to Cillian Murphy who portrays Kitten with a fierce combination of quick-wittedness, sass and personality. We had no idea there was this sashaying minx trapped within the high cheek boned portrayer of psychos and ne’er-do-wells. This has turned out to be quite a year for Cillian, whose villainous turns in “Batman Begins” and “Red Eye” had begun to earmark him as the John Malkovich of his generation. He is clearly capable of more than a sinister countenance, and we hope this film helps bring him bigger and better work.

The supporting cast is uniformly wonderful. Newcomer, Ruth Negga is a delight as the stalwart Charlie, and gosh . . . what a looker! Part and parcel with Neil Jordan flicks is his growing stock company. Much like his fellow Mick, the great John Ford, Mr. Jordan has come to rely on familiar faces to flesh out his marvelously singular characters. Liam Neeson contributes his devastatingly seductive voice and presence to the key role of the priest who took in the abandoned Kitten. Brendan Gleeson cuts loose with raucous glee as the “sod soakedJohn-Joe – who comes to the aid of Kitten with their brief stint as “Wombles.” (We dare not explain fully.) Stephen Rea, the most regular of Jordan’s performance clan is seen to full advantage as the besotted Bertie the Magician who brings a touch of real magic to our down-on-her-luck heroine.

Two musicians / actors portray polar opposite seducers of our plucky maid. Gavin Friday is seen as Billy Hatchet, whose glam rockabilly band – The Hatchets take in our peripatetic Kitten and briefly offer her a glimpse of her much desired fame and glamour. Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music fame is the less benevolent suitor, Mr. Silky String.

Neil Jordan has always intrigued us. From shaky beginnings, thru critically acclaimed works, he began to establish himself as a writer / director of note. He exploded onto the international film scene with his Oscar winning screenplay and directorial nomination of “The Crying Game” in 1992. And yes, while that film also dealt with its own gender bending subplots, it was criminally misrepresented in the media as a one-trick storyline. Shame on the marketers and susceptible public for buying into that scenario. “The Crying Game” holds up very well, thank you very much, as an intriguing political thriller which embroils longtime Jordan stock actor, Stephen Rea in a web of secrets, lies and slight of hand that pays off with a wonderful ending. Go back and rent it, willya? Anywho, the success of “The Crying Game” led to shouts of “sellout” for Jordan’s next undertaking – helming the Goth-set’s favorite potboiler, “Interview with the Vampire.” He thankfully earned back our trust with his work on another Patrick McCabe adaptation, the unjustly ignored “The Butcher Boy” which featured a stellar performance by young Eamonn Owens, along with Sinéad O’Connor’s sinfully comic portrayal of the Virgin Mary. (We shit you not - go rent it, now!) One of the reasons we adore Neil so much is his ability to tackle any subject: from the beautifully acted remake of Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair" to the ravishing visuals of "In Dreams", Neil Jordan has always meant good cinema to us. Well, almost. Still, quite a good track record in today's film world.

IV. The Verdict, and the end of this literary conceit.

While we thoroughly enjoyed our moviegoing experience, we feel that at its very core, perhaps this novel was never meant to be viewed on celluloid. While we would never confuse the merits of cinema versus literature, we will not deny that some novels are simply too tied to their literary roots to be fully realized on the big screen. Still and all, a brave attempt, excellent production values, an entertaining rollicking road trip thru 70s sub-culture and a gutsy view from a real broad. There are worse ways to spend your hard earned doubloons – but we know that this flick ain’t for everybody. And that in the end could be the best rave we could offer. Bless you all!

Written & Directed by Neil Jordan
Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe

Cillian Murphy as Patrick “Kitten” Braden
Liam Neeson as Father Bernard
Ruth Negga as Charlie
Laurence Kinlan as Irwin
Stephen Rea as Bertie the Magician
Brendan Gleeson as John-Joe / Uncle Bulgaria
Conor McEvoy as Patrick (age 10)
Gavin Friday as Billy Hatchet
Ruth McCabe as Ma Braden
Eamonn Owens as Jackie Timlin
Bryan Ferry as Mr. Silky String
Eva Birthistle as Eily Bergin

Cinematography by Declan Quinn
Film Editing by Tony Lawson
Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh
Production Design by Tom Conroy
Art Direction by Michael Higgins, Mark Lowry & Denis Schnegg
Makeup by Felicity Wright