Breakfast on Pluto
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A strange story about an effeminate, cross-dressing man, who after being abandoned by his mother as a child, decides to go out into the world and find her. Along the way, he also goes on a journey of self discovery, where he must decide if he should become the woman he always wanted to be. Life, laughter and high heels.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Director Neil Jordan has created his best films with simple moments – the less complicated, the more rich and layered the work. Jordan is a master at taking basic scenes and making them overwhelmingly remarkable. Scenes like the quiet conversations between kidnapper and kidnappee Stephen Rea and Forest Whitaker in THE CRYING GAME or Tom Cruise explaining the wonders of immortality to Brad Pitt in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. It’s when Jordan tries to say too much or be too artistic as a filmmaker that he tends to fall flat. His latest, BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, is no exception to the rule. It shines brightly when it takes its time, but flounders badly when it relies on flashy gimmicks and overly complicated plot. Going from a subject matter that isn’t exactly virgin territory (again, see THE CRYING GAME!), the story of a cross-dressing man and his adventures (or should I say mis-adventures) works well when Jordon writes and directs what he does best - giving a real and poignant look at the life of a flawed person. Unfortunately, Jordan has also let his experimental side run rampant here, as he loads the film with wacky moments (like birds talking via subtitles!?) and an ongoing chapter heading that flashes across the screen every five minutes. (A tactic that may have been cute at first, but grew tiresome, fast!) I know the film is based on a book, but we’re not reading here, we’re watching and written words on the screen tend to take audience members out of the illusion. (Hence why credits are placed at the beginning and end, not the middle!)
As for the performances, I must admit that even though the running time of the film had me weary, actor Cillian Murphy had me right from the get go. His work here, as the flighty and graceful Kitten, is so natural and real that I literally forgot who I was watching. Everyone else around him, Neeson, Jordan regular Rea and others, all pale in comparison to his committed work - he’s the star of the show. But this is a case of a film that got scared – scared that what it had wasn’t enough and it’s not the first. Want another example? The original cut of BLADE RUNNER had an annoying narration by star Harrison Ford for those who were just not smart enough to get it. So what happened when Director Ridley Scott came to his senses, took his movie back and cut the voice over all together? A classic was born. Director Jordan should have trusted his talent as a filmmaker and dropped all extras thrown in just to be safe; he could’ve had a classic himself. Having breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your plate all at once isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; sometimes just a little breakfast is more then enough to leave one feeling satisfied.
Commentary (with Director Neil Jordan and actor Cillian Murphy): For all those people (like me!) who were looking for answers to impending questions – why did Jordan use the chapter headings and why did he give subtitles to two robins – best keep looking. Jordan has no answers, but at least comes completely clean by saying things like he “did it for some reason” and that it was “weird, I don’t know why I did that.” Also, both commentaries were recorded at different times, always a recipe for disaster. But both Jordan and Murphy, the latter who doesn’t say too much here, have the curse of the dry and monotone delivery, so to get to those few interesting diamonds among the gravel, you may need an extra cup of coffee!
Behind The Scenes Of Breakfast On Pluto (8:57): I’m always amazed that a director like Jordan, who tackles such wild and flamboyant material, is such a calm and sedate guy. Here there is little film footage (a good thing!) and tons of interviews. (A really good thing!) A quick and succinct making-of that gave me a newfound appreciation for the film itself. (But my review still stands!)
Plus there is also a Previews section featuring Trailers for the films 3 BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, CACHE, WHY WE FIGHT, CAPOTE, THE WHITE COUNTESS, THUMBSUCKER, JUNEBUG, THE PASSENGER, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, LONDON, THE DYING GAUL, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE and THE TENANTS.
Sometimes a director should trust his instincts and stick with what works. As a filmmaker, Neil Jordan has always been a master of the subtle, king of the quiet, genius of the gentle – his best works are immersed in it. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO is an example of a filmmaker who thinks he needs to use cheap filmmaking techniques to make an original movie and in a world where some filmmakers need these gimmicks, here it just feels out of place. Jordan is a master craftsman who should know that in this world, or even on Pluto, his reflective and simple moments actually speak volumes.