It isn't easy being Patrick "Kitten" Braden, an effeminate young boy who likes to dress up in his mother's clothes and pop on some lippy. But he has a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for story telling, and it is these qualities that allow him to cope with growing up in the puritanical Ireland of the 1960's and 70's, where everyone either labels him as different or some kind of harbinger of the devil.
Ma Braden (Ruth McCabe) curses the day she took the deviant infant in when he was left on the doorstep of a presbytery. Taken in by the parish priest (Liam Neeson) Patrick is raised by the elderly Ma Braden who is infuriated by this wayward and unusual boy. Patrick realizes that anyone who doesn't like the fact that he cross-dresses just can't be his mother. So off he goes to London to search for the mother who deserted him.
The only clue to who she might be is that she bears a striking resemble to Mitzi Gaynor. In his mind's eye, he envisions her in soft blond curls riding on a red trolley car, and she becomes almost a mythical figure to him. Patrick's search is at a time of extreme conflict between the Irish Republican Army and British military and even though Patrick/Kitten abhors violence; he appears chameleon-like during harrowing moments and gets himself in all sorts of terrible situations.
Breakfast on Pluto has a lovely bouncy ebullience - courtesy of a terrific period soundtrack - and the dashes of fantasy are beautifully melded into the film's quirky humor and quick-witted irreverence. But the film is very episodic and a little over-long for this type of material. The pacing is good, and the narrative is broken up into lots of short, sharp vignettes that never allow the movie to sag; yet the essential conceit of Patrick constantly looking for unconditional love does get a bit repetitive.
It is the amazing Cillian Murphy who holds this film together and he is nothing short of astounding, and he also should have received an Oscar nomination. The irony is that in many of the drag scenes he looks better as a woman than as a man! It's a charming, understated performance, with Murphy expressing his character's androgyny as if it's the most natural thing in the world.
The supporting players also provide richly nuanced roles: Ruth Negga is excellent as Charlie who accepts Patrick without question and Stephen Rea is also good as Bertie the Magician, a sweetly sad middle-aged man who takes wandering Patrick under his wing. Punk-rock pioneer Gavin Friday is amusing as a '70s glam-rocker who also cares for Patrick along the way. Bryan Ferry shows up as a "john" with evil intentions, and Brendan Gleeson also gets in on the act as Uncle Bulgaria, who convinces Patrick to join him working as one of the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.
Although Breakfast on Pluto was released at the same time Transamerica, it was Transamerica that got most of the accolades - it was the better film. Yet, Breakfast On Pluto is still an offbeat delight, jammed with eccentric characters and spot-on performances. With all the troubles of the 1970's the IRA and the bomb attacks in London, Kitty remains the ultimate optimist, constantly bending reality to suit his own needs, believing that love will conquer all and hoping that one day he will realize his fantasy of finding his long lost mother. Mike Leonard April 06.