Breakfast on Pluto
2005Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea
nsure of the lowest grade I can give, within reason, and without ridiculing the system itself, I’ve opted for a D-. F would have had crude connotations and G is inexplicably comical. Breakfast on Pluto is a rubbish film. Sorry, but gut reactions, especially ones of gagging repulsion, aren’t pretty. It makes Get Rich or Die Tryin’ look like Sans Soleil. It is truly one of the most incoherent and ungainly pieces of storytelling I have ever encountered from a film that, no doubt, had aspirations of another kind.
The film, so it goes, follows the life and adventures of Patrick ‘Kitten’ Brady and his cross-dressing journey to find his real mother and father. This sincere desire to discover his parents should have been the spine of the film, but it loses its way so often, it’s like watching an idiot trapped in a room without a door: He just can’t work himself out. The trouble with Kitten is that he’s ‘individual’ to the point of near autism. The character is endlessly overwritten as a fey wisp and, sadly, further mangled by the usually remarkable Cillian Murphy. Here, his is a low achievement indeed, to embody an idiot so fully. The unreliable, rogue narrator can be a remarkably winning technique. But Kitten is no Arthur Gordon Pym, no Huckleberry Finn, and certainly no Travis Bickle. His eccentricities are puerile and shallow, never treating the audience to the narrative invention that a truly disorganised mind would inspire.
What are we supposed to feel for a character so detached from his world? Rather like Raymond in Rain Man, Kitten lives by an obsessive, repetitive code, unable to enjoy or endure the external realities of existence. Yet Jordan traps the character somewhere between retardation and Romanticism, never allowing either to take shape. The ending of Lawn Dogs has fantasy wrestling reality out of the picture, and the seeds planted earlier in the film blossom beautifully. The same can be said for Don Juan de Marco, where fairy tale successfully takes over because we want it to be true, we want the characters to succeed and live impossible dreams. Often discarded as escapist and lazy, these endings are courageous and have true conviction. In contrast, Neil Jordan hints at something in the early stages of the film—the possibility of a dual fantasy narrative—that he never has the nerve to draw out. I was sincerely disappointed that Kitten survived the bomb blast.
In Susan Sontag’s ‘Notes on Camp,’ she quotes Vera, or the Nihilists: “Life is too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” It seems Neil Jordan was attempting to draw something from this idea. Underneath Kitten’s refusal to accept the world lies some sort of primitive innocence and strength; others might call it delusion and ignorance, especially when offset by Jordan’s crass, short-hand treatment of ‘the troubles.’ Jordan attempts to infuse Kitten with the ‘instant character’ of the camp hero, but succeeds only in inspiring a slow, burning resentment toward this narcissistic and self-obsessed loser, so unaffected by the suffering of others.
There are other elements that grate, too. The selection of music is not only full of whinging novelty tracks, but they are used to patronisingly (com)pound every scene. Visually, it’s quite pretty, but the film is edited at a pace that jars horribly with the flabby narrative—it’s way too fat to run that fast. The brief appearance of Bryan Ferry gave me the fleeting impression that the world was once a good place, but this is soon destroyed by the rest of the film, which is like some dangerous blueprint for a terrible future governed by lunatics.
If you’re looking for an interesting story about a broken, desperate hero in search of salvation and definition, I’d recommend Jarhead, Bigger than Life, Greed, The Hustler, The Diary of a Country Priest, Robocop, Young Guns, Eminem’s “Stan”—just not this. Breakfast on Pluto is a vacuous glitter ball of a film, spinning aimlessly like a massacred torso in outer space, reflecting only it’s own glimmering, hopeless, selfish desperation onto the empty walls of that room without a door. I hope it remains there forever—or at least until I am gone and dead.