Breakfast on Pluto an amusing journey

Cillian Murphy, who plays Patricia “Kitten” Braden in Breakfast on Pluto, was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
Cillian Murphy, who plays Patricia “Kitten” Braden in Breakfast on Pluto, was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
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Photo courtesy of sonyclassics.com

Film Review: Breakfast on Pluto, Reelout Opening night, Jan. 26 @ Etherington Auditorium

“Serious, serious, serious,” Patricia “Kitten” Braden declares throughout Breakfast on Pluto. She can’t understand why everyone around her takes life so seriously. For her, life is much like fairy tale, regardless of her troubled upbringing and uncertain future.

For a film that tackles the rather serious subject of a transvestite growing up in conservative 1970s Ireland, it is surprisingly humourous. We witness “Kitten’s” life through her own rose-tinted lens, and so Breakfast on Pluto becomes more of a light-hearted tale, instead of a film that is self-conscious of its own controversial subject.

Breakfast on Pluto was chosen for the opening gala night of the reelout film festival, and was met with a sold-out crowd. Although the film has only been given a limited release, its popularity has been growing since its star, Cillian Murphy, was nominated for a Golden Globe.

“This is the first time in six years that we’ve chosen a film that no one in the reelout collective had seen before,” explained Matt Salton, who is in charge of publicity for the festival.

His interest in Breakfast on Pluto was based on word of mouth, but he claims after seeing the film that it was a “perfect gala film.”

Breakfast on Pluto is based on the novel of the same name by Pat McCabe, and directed by Neil Jordan (The Butcher Boy, The End of the Affair). The two collaborated on screenwriting to make a film that is crafted much like a book—heavy on narration, with chapters dividing each separate story. These divisions do not take away from the film’s fluidity, however, but instead add to the jovial effect of the film.

The film opens with an introduction to Patricia “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy), as a grown woman. Dressed in fashionable attire and pulling a baby tram down the streets of Ireland, she is an object of desire. From here we are traced back to the beginning of Patricia’s troubled life.

Patricia, or Patrick, Braden is the product of an illegitimate union between a Catholic priest, Father Liam (Liam Neeson), and his housekeeper (Eva Birthistle). Abandoned by his mother, and neglected by Father Liam, Patrick is raised by foster mother Ma Braden (Ruth McCabe), who does not approve of his penchant for lipstick and dresses.

His fascination with television star Mitzi Gaynor (who, according to local lore, resembles his real mother) only encourages his love of all things feminine.

Rising star Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Batman Begins) portrays Patricia with charisma and humour. Amidst her many obstacles, Murphy maintains the comical, down-to-earth qualities of this innocent, yet troubled character. Murphy is amazing in Breakfast on Pluto, and easily steals the show from the already established actors within the film.

Murphy is joined by Irish actress Ruth Negga, who plays the role of Patricia’s best friend Charlie. Negga won the prestigious Shooting Star award at Berlin’s International Film Festival, which will be certain to yield the actress more roles in the future.

Embraced only by outsiders, Patrick manages quite easily to disappoint the religious authorities at his Catholic school. For example, after an uncomfortable sex-ed session at Patrick’s school, the students are given a “problem box” to address their sexual curiosities anonymously on paper. The comment that Patrick leaves, needless to say, gets him into trouble. When asked by a friend what he had written, Patrick answers, “I wanted to know where I could get a good sex change.”

These persistent outbursts provide hilarity more than they address the controversy inherent within them.

Breakfast on Pluto becomes more than a light-hearted tale with the inclusion of the political tumult happening in Ireland at the time. The strength of Breakfast on Pluto is its ability to breathe relevancy into this political situation, while maintaining comedic undertones.

Once Patrick leaves his home in the fictional Irish town of Tyreleen to search for his mother in England, he begins his transformation from Patrick to Patricia, and takes up the nickname “Kitten.” The music of Breakfast on Pluto is the backbone role for the film. After all, the film takes its name from a 1969 Don Partridge hit. Glam-rock songs are plentiful throughout the film and serve to give viewers a strong sense of the film’s setting, amidst the sexually liberated youth of the early ’70s. Patricia even appears in a glam-rock band, during her relationship with Billy Hatchet (Gavin Friday), the lead singer of the band The Mohawks. It’s interesting to note that Friday is a popular Irish musician himself, and is a close friend of Bono of U2.

The most apt appearance in the film was that of Brian Ferry. The frontman of the ’70s glam-rock band Roxy Music has a brief role as Mr. Silky String, a man who mistakes Patricia for a prostitute.

In many ways Breakfast on Pluto plays like a Hollywood-type dramatic comedy. With this in mind, the film could prove to be very successful with a wider release. This would give Breakfast on Pluto the edge it needs to bring these issues of sexuality to a larger market, much like the way Brokeback Mountain and Transamerica already have.

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