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The quare fellow
Neil Jordan cooks up a zesty Breakfast on Pluto
Directed by Neil Jordan | Written by Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe based on McCabe’s novel | With Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Ian Hart, Bryan Ferry, and Gavin Friday | A Sony Classics release | 129 minutes | CABLE CAR

Although based on the Patrick McCabe novel (he also co-wrote the screenplay), Breakfast on Pluto serves up ingredients from almost every other Neil Jordan film. Start with the theme of hopeless love common to them all, add elements of the IRA from Angel and The Crying Game, mix in the latter film’s gender bending, fold in the search for the lost mother from The Miracle, garnish with the exploding window from The End of the Affair, and top with generous helpings of ham. The finished product might be overdone and in bad taste, but like the best of Jordan’s work, it does satisfy.

The ham comes courtesy of Cillian Murphy as cross-dressing Candide Patrick " Kitten " Braden. It will take time to get her voice out of your mind — it hovers somewhere between Ben Stiller imitating Marilyn Monroe in Zoolander and the Lucky Charms Leprechaun — as she spins the fairy-tale version of the story of her life. Born at a bad time in a bad place — the town of Tyreelin on the northern border of the Republic in 1958 — she’s further cursed by her parentage: Father Bernard (Liam Neeson) by way of housekeeper and Mitzi Gaynor look-alike Eily Bergin (Eva Birthistle). Mother leaves him on dad’s doorstep and is " swallowed up by London. " Dad fobs her off on a local harridan. Unloved and fabulous, Kitten copes by dressing up and dreaming.

Her wit and whimsy and disregard for reality keep her going, as do her childhood friends Charlie (Ruth Negga) and Irwin (Laurence Kinlan). But when those two grow up and fall in love with each other and the latter gravitates toward a Republican cause that leaves blood in the streets of Tyreelin, Kitten sets off on a picaresque search for her lost mother, transforming her tawdry encounters into the glamorous stuff of kitsch.

As she seeks her only love, others make her the object of theirs. Kitten hooks up first with Billy Hatchet (Gavin Friday), leader of the singing Mohawks, but her stint as a squaw sharing duets with Billy ends in a rain of beer bottles. She heads to London and, failing in her quest, settles into the city’s glam-rock dregs. After donning a Womble costume in a theme park, putting in a stint as a streetwalker, and getting stalked by a serial killer played by Bryan Ferry, she partners in the magic show of smitten Bertie (Stephen Rea). The latter act parodies Jordan’s own filmmaking, Kitten’s broken heart mocked by phony miracles.

Although farce dominates the mood, Jordan sides with the sentimental dreamer. Narrated by Kitten in coyly titled chapters, shot in bubblegum colors dimly lit as if by a dying fire, and backed by a soundtrack of every bad song from the early ’70s (and some great ones too), the film insists that great clothes, a passion for Bobby Goldsboro, and an all-forgiving fantasy life can overcome terrorist bombs and interrogations by Scotland Yard. Unlike Jordan’s more tragic versions of the same story — Mona Lisa, The Crying Game — this one is told from the point of view of the elusive object of desire, not the hapless saps chasing after her. Maybe on Pluto they can finally have breakfast together.

Issue Date: January 6 - 12, 2006
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