A Kitten in outer space

By |2018-01-16T09:43:58-05:00January 12th, 2006|Entertainment|

“Not many people can take the tale of Patrick Braden,” says “Kitten” in the opening moments of “Breakfast on Pluto.”
And sadly, that’s probably true – thanks partly to the story itself and the style in which it’s told, but also because of incredibly bad timing.
Released locally only weeks after “Brokeback Mountain” and – due to last minute schedule changes – just prior to “Transamerica,” “Breakfast on Pluto” is yet another in a seemingly endless series of LGBT-themed movies to open this winter on the silver screen. While it’s about damn time that our stories are given serious treatment by Hollywood and moviegoers alike, it’s a shame that they’re all coming at once – since such proximity invites comparison, and such analyses often unfairly create winners and losers when each should be able to stand on its own merits and worth.
Such is the case with “Breakfast on Pluto.”
A sweet, but often slow-moving flick, “Pluto” is Director Neil Jordan’s adaptation of the 1992 Patrick McCabe novel about a baby boy left on the doorstep of a church in Ireland in the late 1950s. The small town’s parish priest, Father Bernard (played with great sincerity and honesty by Liam Neeson), quickly carries the foundling to local pub owner Ma Braden (Ruth McCabe) who raises the infant in her home.
It’s a tough, loveless upbringing that takes a couple of unusual twists. Around the age of 10, Patrick’s mother comes home and discovers him in her dress, shoes and lipstick – a revelation she’s none too pleased with. And that’s when Patrick (played at this point by Conor McEvoy) learns she’s not his real mother. So who is, the youngster wonders?
A friend’s dad – feeling sorry for the social outcast – provides much of the startling answer! And a steamed-open letter containing a check to his mother reveals the rest.
But even a strict Catholic school education does little to “straighten out” the now-teenaged Patrick – much to his mother and schoolmaster’s dismay. Wearing mascara and speaking in a faint, wispy voice, Patrick now calls himself “Kitten,” and before long, the androgynous misfit is expelled from school. So Kitten (now played by Cillian Murphy in a transformation totally unlike any role he’s played before) sets off for London in search of the mother who “looks like Mitzi Gaynor” – and whom she calls her “Phantom Lady.”
For the rest of the movie, Kitten simply wanders through life, accepting whatever fate throws at her with innocent, Bambi-like eyes.
First, she hooks up with Billy Rock and the Mohawks, a bar band known for mixing glam rock with the Wild West, but her stage debut is a disaster. Later, she finds work as a costumed character at a fairyland theme park. Then she’s almost murdered by a rich-looking sugar-daddy type; joins magician Bertie in his cheap magic act (played with great soul by Stephen Rea); suspected of bombing a nightclub; turns tricks on the street to survive; and finally is offered safe haven by a cop who gets her a job at a legal peepshow. Plus, the Irish Republican Army makes its presence felt, as well.
But what of her Phantom Lady? You’ll have to see the movie to learn how that works itself out!
Whereas its sister flicks take a very realistic approach to their storytelling, “Pluto” addresses its important and timely themes in a fairytale-like manner. While dressing up modern day concerns in such a wardrobe has its appeal, “Pluto” is almost too whimsical for its own good.
For instance, it’s damn near impossible to take seriously a movie that uses animated robins as narrators – with sub-titles, of course, since they’re chirping. It’s cute – but it can also lessen the film’s overall impact on much of its audience.
What works to the film’s benefit, however, is the overall appeal of its main character – and Murphy’s excellent performance. You can’t help but like this naive soul who seems to make friends with even those who dislike what she stands for.
So maybe that’s what Director/Co-Writer Jordan is ultimately trying to tell us: That despite our differences – be they on the outside or on the inside – there’s something within each of us that deserves respect and love. As TV’s Earl might say: It’s all about karma!

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