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Welcome to the twelfth week of Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits. This week’s actor…
Sometimes all it takes is one role for an actor not on your radar to land in the spotlight. That’s how it was with Cillian Murphy. I’ve never watched Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, so missed him as the Scarecrow, but once Peaky Blinders came out it wasn’t long before I needed to know who this blue eyed actor was. Terrific in one of the few good movies this summer season produced, Anthropoid, his upcoming releases, Free Fire and Dunkirk, are two of my most anticipated films for 2017 .
Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
Directed by Neil Jordon
Written by Neil Jordon and Pat McCabe
Based on the book by Pat McCabe
It takes a while to fall into the rhythm of Breakfast on Pluto but once you fall, it’s hard. And if that can be misread as sexual, Kitten would want it that way. Abandoned as a baby and unsupported by her adoptive family, Patrick “Kitten” Braden decides to leave Ireland and set off for London, the city that “swallowed” her “mother up.”
Throughout the movie Kitten uses the language of fairy tales to tell her story. Making a mantra out of a few details shared by a friend’s father (Eily Bergin had a striking resemblance to actress, Mitzy Gaynor), Kitten’s mom takes on a larger than life persona renamed the “Phantom Lady.”
A lot of my struggle getting into this movie came from not understanding what Kitten had against seriousness. Her refusal to break from storytelling for self-preservation. Her language reliably indelicate and symbolic. Over thirty chapter titles divide the film up, making the story seem to move too fast. The picture’s brazen soundtrack of popular music lacks any lyrical subtlety (even if I was all smiles at Henry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow“). There were talking animated birds!
And then it was like a switch was flipped. It started with Kitten’s timed writing assignment at school. Testing a teacher at their word of openness to any subject matter, Kitten writes about her mother (Eva Birthistle) and the kinky priest (Liam Neeson) that pursued her. The already uncomfortable, if darkly comic, scene (played excellently by Birthistle) ends on Eily’s rape. The tone doesn’t change. The poppy music still plays in the background. It’s blatantly inflammatory and that’s how the school views it, but that’s not what Kitten means.
Everyone loves an optimist but there’s a point when an optimist is supposed to break and become a “realist.” Kitten doesn’t break and it creates audacious moments like this writing assignment. It takes getting to know Kitten better to appreciate where she’s coming from. Surrounded by cruelty (for being trans; for living in Ireland during the Troubles) she needs to be extreme in her perspective to not be infected by seriousness. While not always what would be deemed appropriate, Kitten isn’t oblivious to what’s going on. She puts her spin on it to survive and Cillian Murphy completely commits to her confidence.
Everything that initially felt like too much comes together for walloping standalone moments, from the arch (Kitten as an undercover, perfume wielding spy) to the raw (Kitten’s friendship with Lawrence (Seamus Reilly), who has down syndrome). Ruth Negga is great as another childhood friend and a mix of newcomers and pros round out the cast. The costumes, hair, and make-up are wonderfully period, with nary a coat without a fuzzy collar. The movie juggles multiple tones and director, Neil Jordon, hits them all, from the found kinship of Kitten’s first conversation with magician, Bertie (Stephen Rea) to the aggressiveness of Kitten’s run-in with the IRA, to the direct artistry of Kitten carrying a green umbrella when everyone else’s is black.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Much like its outstanding lead character, Breakfast on Pluto isn’t afraid to tell its story its own way. The world could use more Kittens.
Check back tomorrow for Cillian Murphy’s performance in a film where a train goes off the rails.