Breakfast On Pluto/Cillian Murphy
I want to make mention of a quite remarkable film that seems to have been overlooked in the US during its run in theaters (due most likely to its quite limited release), but is now on DVD where it can obviously reach the mass audience it deserves. Breakfast On Pluto is the tale of an Irish boy abandoned to a church in infanthood, his subsequent troubles with school, church, and adopted family due to his obvious (and unapologetic) identification as transgendered, and finally the meat of the story is concerned with his quest to find his real mother. It is set by and large in the early 1970s (featuring a mighty nice soul, rock, and bubblegum soundtrack by the way), as IRA/English troubles are raging and, much like Brokeback Mountain (which otherwise this film resembles in no particular way), homosexuality remains an unspeakable taboo, so obviously the nuances of gender/sex identification are even further misunderstood. That said, the film is never didactic, as protagonist Patrick (Cillian Murphy) makes no concessions about who he is, yet it is never an issue until someone else makes it one. Murphy's characterization of Patrick rings true from start to finish, and neither he nor the script fall into caricature at any point. Instead, Murphy and director Neil Jordan present what amounts to an episodic adventure story, as Patrick runs into all kinds of characters during his quest. Are they quirky? Yes, often enough they are in some way, but they are never cliche, and never mere sketches. In fact, that is one of the film's most redeeming aspects: there isn't an uninteresting character in the fair-sized cast of supporting roles. The film is not bogged down in sub-plots, either. As a viewer you are just given enough information to understand where any given character is coming from, and then presented with how the character interacts with Patrick. Most importantly, the film offers surprise after surprise, and earns every step of the way. There's no cheap twists, no false notes, and no dull moments in its two hour run. There are moments of real magic, both in terms of storytelling and filmmaking. Ultimately, this film falls alongside Hedwig & the Angry Inch in terms of boldness, creativity, honesty, and sheer fun, and in fact I think they would make a great double feature. I should probably note that the DVD features a short behind the scenes featurette, and a commentary track. Pretty minimal, I suppose, but I think the film speaks for itself.
I also want to write a quick note about Cillian Murphy in particular, who seems to be one of cinema's most talented rising stars. His breakout role (in the U.S. at least, I'm not sure of his status in Ireland/Europe before this) came with the breath of fresh air in horror, 28 Days Later. He's since had standout roles in Batman Begins and Red Eye, two of the smartest action films of recent years. And now with his leading turn in Breakfast On Pluto he seems to be following in the footsteps of genuinely daring and diversely talented young (well, they were young) actors like Ewan McGregor and Johnny Depp. Let's hope he continues along this line, but avoids the filler McGregor and Depp both have patched into their histories.