BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (Neil Jordan, 2005)

A labored picaresque farce that arrives after more than two hours at a point of remarkable and frustrating irresolution, Breakfast on Pluto would easily qualify as the worst film in almost anyone’s career, but the director here, Neil Jordan, earlier made Interview with a Vampire (1994), the clumsiest, dumbest, most boring vampire movie ever. Co-written by Patrick McCabe, the author of the novel on which the film is based and Jordan’s previous collaborator on The Butcher Boy (1996), Breakfast on Pluto does generate three or four chuckles but little pleasure apart from the nifty use of past popular songs on the soundtrack. This is a terrible movie.
     The film takes place in the 1970s. It follows an innocent young adoptee, Patrick Braden, back and forth between a small town in Ireland and London, where he goes in search of his biological mother. Nonviolent, he also flees Ireland after consigning a cache of IRA weaponry to the watery deep; it’s just Patrick’s luck that he is mistaken for an IRA member when the London pub he is visiting—this is based on an actual 1974 incident—is blown up. A cross-dresser, Patrick wants to be known as “Kitten”; along the way of his misadventures, he is protected by some—and never has a boy been more in need of protection—and assaulted by others. Still others, with differing degrees of awareness of Patrick’s gender, simply accept him as Kitten.
     Kitten does meet his mother, but she has a family of her own now, including another child on the way, and perhaps Kitten no longer is in such desperate need of her dreamt-of care and protection. It turns out that Kitten’s biological father is his Irish priest. “What should I call you?” Kitten asks him. The priest’s reply: “Father.” That is the kind of arch whimsical humor with which the movie is fraught.
     Wonderful Cillian Murphy endearingly mumbles his way through the self-bantering part of Kitten; he is not the problem with Jordan’s assinine film. Neither is the elegant and intricate mise-en-scène (the finest that Jordan has ever devised), except insofar as it is meaningless, merely decorative. That’s the core problem: the film is splashy, colorful, decorative, with odd little supernatural touches (including dreams and subtitled animated chirping birds), but essentially hollow because it falls way short of the mark of embracing the humanity of its outcasts: not just Kitten and his priestly pop, but the African-Irish girl whose baby Kitten comes to adopt. Jordan’s film trivializes the lives of all three, as well as the politics. It provides an astounding absence of context for the Anglo-Irish conflict. (Bloody Sunday, mind you, occurred in 1972!) Rather, it sentimentalizes everything, hoping vaguely for such a world as where everyone is free to pursue his or her idiosyncrasies. But the political implications of “going one’s own way,” at least for the Irish vis-à-vis the British, is soullessly discounted for the sake of cinematic embroidery and Chanel perfume—fringe foolishness; not the agony of blighted lives as British bullets rip out the hearts of Irish innocents as well as militarized opponents.
     Himself Irish, Jordan nevertheless couldn’t resist trying to stroke everyone in sight in pursuit of the widest possible audience, the most bucks. (Imagine a Jewish film that courted Nazi approval.) In one of the most despicable blows ever delivered by film, a thug-cop who beats the crap out of Kitten becomes one of his compassionate protectors. I swear, I’m not making this up!
     This is a film to be stomached by those who can stomach it. I hope that their number is small.

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