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BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (article first published : 2006-03-4)

Irish director Neil Jordan seems smitten with the writing of author Pat McCabe, having turned his book, The Butcher Boy, into a remarkable film.

Now he has been inspired again by a McCabe work, this new film having been based on the novel of the same name, about the life and colourful times of one Patrick "Kitten" Braden, an orphaned Irish lad with a penchant for dressing up in women's clothing.

Sadly, a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Cillian Murphy notwithstanding, this is not a film in the same league as The Butcher Boy, or Jordan's more celebrated The Crying Game.

It is worth seeing for Murphy, however, who makes a very convincing and rather attractive female, a character that is light years from his menacing Scarecrow in Batman Begins and cold hitman in Red Eye.

Fragile of frame, wide of eye and curly of mop, Murphy is quite superb as the androgynous Kitten, who, as a baby, is abandoned on the doorstep of a village priest (Liam Neeson) and raised by a tough foster mom.

Then, as a confused, androgynous teen in the mid-70s, he opts to leave the troubles of Ireland for London, in a bid to find the mother he never knew, whom he dubs The Phantom Lady.

In between, we have him involved in adventures including hooking up romantically with the burly singer (Gavin Friday) of a covers band; making a disastrous stage debut with the same group (dressed as an Indian squaw); uncovering weapons intended to fight for a political cause; and surviving a pub bombing for which he is wrongfully arrested as the culprit.

We also follow wide-eyed Kitten as he becomes an assistant to a tacky, much older magician (Stephen Rea), who has the hots for him; gets a job portraying a furry Womble character alongside a somewhat volatile "Madeye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson); and turns to prostitution, which includes being attacked in a car by a shady character played by 70s pop icon Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music fame.

Jordan's film has a curious appeal and a fun kitsch element, particularly for party people of the 70s, who will, by turns, cringe and smile at distant memories of this camp era and a jam-packed soundtrack that includes forgotten favourites by The Rubettes, T Rex, Middle of the Road, Silver Convention, Nilsson, Joe Dolan, Bobby Goldsboro, Billy Paul, Slade, George McCrae and Van Morrison.

However, the film's day-dreamy, devil-may-care central character is at odds with the seriousness that surrounds him.

Also, the movie is too long, too episodic (the story unfolds under 36 chapter headings) and, at times, too twee (a pair of twittering robins pass comment, via subtitles, on the action is silly). Rating 6/10 Billy Suter




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