Neil Jordan's stylish way of telling Irish stories continues with Breakfast on Pluto. It has a frisky energy to it in depicting the colorful milieu of Patrick "Kitten" Braden.
Patrick, played by the busy Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, Batman Begins), is an androgynous cross-dresser, orphaned in a quaint Irish town. He's watched over by a caring local priest (Liam Neeson) and two close friends (Laurance Kinlan, Ruth Negga).
As an adult he heads for London to make some sense of his life, especially in a search for his mother (Eva Birthistle). It's London in the 1970's, so Jordan establishes the hip nature of the period. Kitten will befriend the likes of a glam-rocker (Bryan Ferry), a good-natured magician (Stephen Rea, a staple of many Jordan films), and a children's entertainer, the fine Brendan Gleeson (a scene-stealer in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).
The mitigating factors here include identity crisis, poverty, and IRA brutality as felt in Jordan's poignantly powerful The Crying Game. While quite protracted, Breakfast on Pluto has a roiling vivid fascination to it through a transvestite's eyes. Murphy invests quite a bit in a role that gains some steam on gullibility and distress, willing to go from the most elemental to flamboyant. Neeson, remembered from Jordan's Michale Collins, offers the best backup with truthfulness in what drastic changes lie ahead in life.
Jordan presides deftly over a production with much insight into such a glamorous time, using subtitles frequently. It has the quality of a fairy tale with voice-over by Kitten and plenty of thoughtful personalized interludes. The mood treads a fine line between comedy and tragedy that brings an absurdity to it all as there are more than enough chapter headings. But, when Murphy hones into the bathos from the violence and despair, the terrorism, spy stuff, and harsh inquisition, Pluto is able to drop its bombs of shocks and hilarity and observantly keep us in its orbit.