Praising Breakfast on Pluto can feel a bit like sticking up for a friend. That’s because the film is admittedly a lost cause for anyone not charmed by the hero, wispy, witty cross-dresser Patrick “Kitten” Brady, played by Cillian Murphy. Either it’s a fanciful picaresque driven by Kitten’s disarming hope, love, and fantasies, or for you hard hearts, it’s an aimless drag (pun half-intended) that grandstands without really developing its main character.
But enough equal airtime. This is Neil Jordan’s best since The Butcher Boy (with which it bears similarities), and is indeed the more moving an experience for being both entertaining and evasive. Kitten has her reasons: abandoned as a baby, Patrick is obsessed with finding his birth mother, a missing beacon through all his wanderings. He calls himself Kitten and the rest is history; or fantasy — school days scandalizing priests with tales, on the road with glam rockers, assistant to a magician with mournful eyes, unwittingly mixed up with the IRA.
Jordan propels the episodic film along and comes to seem a guardian angel of sorts for Kitten, whisking his character into and out of trouble, putting one scene and then another before our eyes. But as playful and embroidered as Kitten’s existence is, this is a bluesy laughing to keep from crying. Murphy’s arresting face, which has always seemed handsome but also unnerving, here becomes an effortless marker for his character’s fragile self-expression and open-hearted tenderness.
Kitten’s acceptance of events, come what may, and his ready brotherhood project a spirituality without ever stating as much. And the vital soundtrack of lost UK radio hits from the 70s — everything inane and sublime about pop — helps to bear you aloft in this transport born of loss.
Opens November 16 at Landmark Sunshine