Breakfast on Pluto Reviews
There are a total of 36 chapters in Breakfast on Pluto with the film divided into them like it was a novel. They end up making the film seem more like a series of vignettes than a consistent narrative. There is so much of a story crammed into a running time of 127 minutes at a rather rushed rate. I appreciate the fact that Neil Jordan made an effort to try and put the entire story into a film and that he did it with a well-conceived screenplay full of strong dialogue, but he failed to really turn it into a heartfelt project which leaves it rather stiff.
One of the problems with Breakfast on Pluto is the tone of the film. Things never really feel dramatic due to an atmosphere which is continuously monotonous. There is never really any emotion in the film. While Breakfast on Pluto has some clearly complex themes to it, but it plays them off to casually without really taking into account the complex value of their presence in the story. The fact that the protagonist is transgender being casual is positive in the sense that the lack of complexity surrounding her makes it seem all the more normal, but considering that much of the film is about others failing to accept her identity. A lot of the high concepts in the film are barely capitalised on, and the entire film has a distinctive lack of drama and human involvement. It is nowhere near as complex as when Neil Jordan touched upon the material in his greatest film to date, 1992's The Crying Game. In that sense, the film even feels a bit familiar. The story in Breakfast on Pluto is about Patricia "Kitten" Braden searching for love and her mother, but it is more focused on the events than it is about her which makes it a rather shallow piece which is emotionally distant. Viewers may sympathise for characters in the film, but connecting to them is something else which simply does not work out this time.
The fact is that Neil Jordan's direction in Breakfast in Pluto fails to illuminate the complex depth of the film. His work on the film is a lot more style over substance, and while the style of the film is wonderful, it neglects a lot of the importance in the story and the meaning of the characters. But it does give the film a good style. The scenery in Breakfast on Pluto is beautiful because it takes viewers on a trip through time, and it ties in with the versatile costumes and smooth production design of the film to establish a real time period for it to be happening. The cinematography of the film is also grand and the entire film is atmospherically played out against a strong soundtrack.
The narration in the film ties a lot of its scenes together. As anyone should know, a book can never get the same level of insight into the mind of the main character that a novel can due to being limited to tangible qualities. It gives the viewers a sense of understanding during some of the few scenes where it is used. And to add to it, the cast of Breakfast on Pluto really pull through.
Cilian Murphy just steps into his role incredibly well in Breakfast on Pluto. Taking on the part of Patrick and later Patricia "Kitten" Braden, Cilian Murphy takes on the role very easily with organic acting skill. He sinks into the role easily because he projects a subtle level of flamboyance in the part and comfortably fits into the transgender role so that when Patrick becomes Patricia, it is really easily believable. Despite the emotional distance of the story, it is easy to sympathise with the protagonist in Breakfast on Pluto because of the spirit that Cilian Murphy puts into the role. He is just great because he makes the part seem so easy, and he deals with the material in a realistic manner. Cilian Murphy is perfectly easygoing in Breakfast on Pluto, and he carries the film with a lot of charismatic passion. He rocks his costume really well and has such a likable demeanour to him that the general intended spirit of the film is easy to see through his performance. He brings meaning to the film where Neil Jordan comes up short, and so his performance is pivotal to the success of Breakfast on Pluto.
Liam Neeson makes a fine effort as well. He has a true legacy as a wise actor which he brings to Breakfast on Pluto in a befitting manner due to the fact that he is portraying a priest. He steps into the role easily and captures the right sense of dedication to the character as well as appropriate stoicism. His time on screen is small but memorable because his performance is passionately focused on character, and it is grand to see him returning to his roots in Irish cinema. Liam Neeson is a very welcome presence in Breakfast on Pluto.
Brendan Gleeson does his part as well. His time on screen is memorable because of the chemistry he shares with Cillian Murphy and simply because he has a genuinely likable spirit to him. He has a rough edge in the best sense of the word, and he brings that gritty sense of strength to the story which makes him a great character. He stands confident in the part and engages with the universe of the film with natural ease, so his efforts are terrific in Breakfast on Pluto.
And lastly, Stephen Rea makes a charming supporting effort in Breakfast on Pluto. I expected nothing less from him because he always works well with Neil Jordan, and the endeavour of his performance this time is the way he interacts with Ciliann Murphy as the bond shared between the two characters is intellectually complex which gives Stephen Rea the chance to breathe life into the story. When he succeeds, it is no surprise whatsoever. Stephen Rea's small performance in Breakfast on Pluto brings a lot of meaning to it and emphasises his best acting talents in a small period of screen time.
So Breakfast on Pluto is a stylish and well-acted film which benefits from great performances from Cilian Murphy and Stephen Rea, except that Neil Jordan directs it in a more stylish angle which makes the story largely inconsistent and uninvolving.
Clocking in just barely shy of 130 minutes, the film is by no means short, but it's still covering a colorful life, and a 130-minute runtime doesn't exactly cut it, being dragged out to by some surprising halts in momentum for the sake of filler, then tightened down to by a rushing of material that, make no mistake, is more recurring than you might think. I suppose storytelling is competent enough for all of the excessive tightening of material to not necessarily feel jarring, but by no means is this film especially organic in its constantly shifting focus, rushing and rushing along the life and times of the Patrick "Kitten" Braden character until you begin to lose a grip on the depth of this narrative which is told at such an exhausting and, for that matter, uneven pace. An inconsistent pacing is brutally detrimental to the engagement value of this dramedy, alone, so, as you can imagine, inconsistency in tone also proves to be a big problem, being possibly intentional as a reflection on themes dealing with the jarring distinctions between colorful fantasy and harsh reality, but still an issue for the fluff when it goes broken by tension, and a particularly big issue for the drama when it goes broken by cheese that, in all fairness, rarely truly departs. Even when a little, if not a lot more serious, this film keeps corn popping through histrionics that shake genuineness, even if they're not that prominent, at least compared to cheesy spots in the lighter aspects in which fluff gets carried away and cloys as frantic and, of course, overstylized. Overstylization does not quite end with the humor, because as a flamboyant portrait on flamboyant affairs, this film carries a thoroughly colorful style that is refreshing and plenty of fun, but recurring throughout the film, overshadowing and thinning substance until it is all but lost under the overwhelming weight of attention to stylistic ambition over dramatic ambition. The film is certainly a dramatic success when it does, in fact, get into its substance, but whether it be because it's too hurried to the thoughtful, or because it's too uneven to keep tonally focused, or simply because it's too overstylized, the final product fails to explore the full depths of a drama rich with potential. Of course, if nothing else is problematic about the execution of this worthy story concept, it's simply questionable storytelling ideas, because there are only so many real missteps, and plenty of strengths that drive the final product a decent distance, particularly in entertainment value.
Rich with delightful classic pop tunes that encompass elements of many various styles, this film's soundtrack is comprised of not too predictable and thoroughly fun music, as well as a groovy score by Anna Jordan, both of which entertain by their own right and capture the setting and flamboyance of this stylish period piece, further sold by art direction by Andrew Munro, Michael Higgins, Denis Schnegg and Stephen Daly that subtly and handsomely paints an immersive portrait of the '60s and '70s. Polishing such a portrait is, of course, cinematography by Declan Quinn that, while surprisingly not as playful as the art direction and stylistic direction, has a tastefulness to color and lighting that catches your eyes and further draws you into this lively world with as an instrumental force in visual style that is itself an instrumental force in the final product overall. As I've said time and again, the film all too often places style over substance, and that's what holds the final product back, although that's not to say that the style that is often overplayed is ever less than dazzling, as director Neil Jordan delivers on stylistic competence about as much as he ever has through exceptionally colorful celebrations of snappy editing by Tony Lawson, surrealistic visuals, and aforementioned stylistic touches that sustain entertainment value as thorough. Yes, if the film is nothing else, it's a lot of fun, and I seriously wish that it could have been more than that, because entertainment value isn't enough to do full justice to a narrative that, on top of being colorful, has a lot of depth which is lost in translation, but for only so long before Jordan actually calms down and provides a glimpse into what could have been: a compelling character drama. Following the flamboyant, dynamic and often actually heavy shenanigans of an eccentric individual, this story is solid, and its execution undercuts potential primarily through ideas that don't really work, being generally competent, both in direction, and in writing by Jordan that offers plenty of clever dialogue and comic set pieces which range from pretty amusing to, well, all-out hysterical, punctuated by moments of genuine thoughtfulness that draw you into the heart of characterization and bring the focus of this flamboyant portrait on bizarre humanity to life. More consistent in selling the human touch of this dramedy is the performances, or at least one in particular, because even though just about every person given a chance under the spotlight shines with charisma, leading man Cillian Murphy is a revelation, committing to a challengingly strange role through the nailing of flamboyant behavior and mannerisms with effortlessness that not only allows Murphy to truly transform, never to be recognized, and take on an overwhelming charm that endears you to the Patrick "Kitten" Braden character about as much as the occasional dramatic highlight that is soaring in its humanity. Murphy is stellar, plain and simple, and if you see the film for no other reason, see it to see if you can actually believe that Murphy is this good, for although the film falls short in so many other places, to the point of standing as kind of underwhelming, Murphy marks a height in inspiration that is found in enough areas to make a fun and often effective, if ultimately questionably drawn affair.
In closing, exhausting unevenness in pacing and tone, and cheesy aspects that range from melodrama to overt fluff wear weight down until almost as much as near-monotonous overstylization that ends up holding a very promising effort back as rather underwhelming, but only under the weight of questionable ideas, rather than missteps, as there is enough entertainment value sustained by a delightful soundtrack, immersive art direction, dazzling cinematography and clever writing, and depth sustained by thoughtful highlights in Neil Jordan's storytelling and a captivatingly charming, genuine and all around transformative lead performance by Cillian Murphy to secure "Breakfast on Pluto" as a thoroughly endearing, if equally improvable portrait on the unconventional life of an unconventional individual.
2.75/5 - Decent