Recovered from Chiwetel Ejiofor's butch tranny in Kinky Boots? Then you might just be ready for Cillian Murphy, the latest rising star to do an Emily Howard in Breakfast On Pluto. The young Irishman certainly looks more at home in heels and suzzies than his English counterpart. And while Neil Jordan's infuriatingly episodic black comedy fails to take full advantage of its leading (wo)man, it's a welcome twist from an actor who, after Red Eye and Batman Begins, was in serious danger of becoming typecast as a psycho.
No such problem for Jordan, whose latest - a cross-dressing rite of passage spanning everything from IRA terrorism to psychedelic glam-rock - is as hard to classify as the rest of his eclectic CV. Still, there are obvious nods to The Crying Game here, while Pat McCabe's source novel makes Breakfast a sequel of sorts to 1997's The Butcher Boy. And of course, there's the usual Jordan ensemble: Liam Neeson as a parish priest with a secret, Ian Hart as a kindly copper, Brendan Gleeson as a mercurial kiddies' entertainer and Stephen Rea as the plummy stage magician who takes Murphy's doe-eyed innocent under his wing.
But with barely a handful of scenes between them, the cast struggle to make an impression in a film that, like its nomadic protagonist, rarely stays still for long. Divided into 36 chapters and partially narrated by a couple of subtitled CG robins, Pluto also runs the risk of being suffocated by its own twee whimsy, as there's never any real sense of jeopardy or tension.
At its best, though, Breakfast On Pluto achieves a vivid, dream-like surreality that recalls Almodóvar at his most free-wheeling. In Murphy, meanwhile, it has a brave, committed performer who makes Kitten a flesh-and-blood oddball we can truly root for.
An uneven coming-of-age yarn that's captivating and frustrating in equal measure. But Murphy makes it worth the effort.
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