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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Breakfast on Pluto" (2005)

Author Patrick McCabe knows his misfits. He knows them so well, he invents new languages for them. They can be tough to learn at first, but once you do it has a way of sticking with you for a while. His books cannot be digested easily, so one has to admire any director who chooses to adapt a Patrick McCabe book to the screen, fragmented sentences and all. Neil Jordan has now made two movies from the celebrated Irish author’s work and has again captured the voice of the troubled misfit, Patrick “Pussy” Braden, which can either be a curse or a blessing.

It’s hard for me to review this film without making reference to the book, but it’s even harder to imagine someone who has never read the book watching this movie and thoroughly enjoying it. Like Jordan/McCabe’s hypnotic and exhausting “The Butcher Boy” (featuring the greatest child performance of all time, Eamonn Owens), “Breakfast On Pluto” doesn’t center on the action in the scene, but on the protagonist's perception of them. Like McCabe’s books, it’s often hard to choose sides in any given moment, when you know that the voice of the story is just a bit off.

Patrick Braden (nicknamed “Kitten” in the film) has always fancied himself more of a lady. At an early age, he dressed up in his adopting mother’s clothes and wore her makeup. As an adult, Patrick (Cillian Murphy) has become obsessed with finding his real mother, whom he believes lives in London. Thus begins his journey, which leads him to a variety different characters and situations, including playing a lady Indian on stage with a glam rock band (headed by the great Gavin Friday), incidents with the IRA, wearing giant animal costumes to entertain children, being a second half of a magic act (Stephen Rea being the other half)…all while dealing with being Patrick Braden.

Unlike the cheerfully sadistic “The Butcher Boy,” Braden is cheerfully optimistic. He speaks like a lady, can dress and act like one, but it almost seems irrelevant to everything else that happens. The key to the story is not that he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body, but that he’s an eccentric personality who has yet to find his match. The most relevant relationship he forms in the movie is that of a lifelong connection with a priest (Liam Neeson) who just might have the answer Patrick has been searching for his whole life.

Like the book, the movie is episodic, slightly disjointed and going in all directions. Its main flaw is that it’s simply too long. But the movie succeeds as an adaptation, mainly because author McCabe, who also wrote the screenplay, seems to have just tossed the book aside completely and started from scratch. The book, as written, would probably never work as a movie, but this movie somehow does. Jordan and Cillian Murphy maintain the inner sadness of Patrick’s existence and the broken, but fixable heart that exists beneath the flamboyant façade. The character will likely annoy some people, but then, so did “The Butcher Boy.”

Jordan is good to take the risk. It’s not a completely successful movie, but Jordan’s adventurous spirit is very much prevalent and is clearly in tune with McCabe’s eccentric narrative, complete with talking birds and an overabundance of chapter stops (some chapters in the book are only one paragraph long). True to form, the soundtrack also beautifully compliments the main character’s state of mind. Will audiences mind being trapped in that state for two hours? Hard to say, since I had major curiosities of my own when I walked in. When the reviews are out, I’m likely to be a bit of a misfit myself.

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