I’m struck by how both lightweight and dull Breakfast on Pluto is, when I could so easily imagine it being neither.
It’s the story of a transgendered man, coming of age in Ireland during the turmoil and terrorism of the IRA campaign against the British occupation.
As a boy he was abandoned by his single mother and brought up in an adoptive family (by people who don’t “get” him at all). Now grown, he travels to London in the hopes of tracking down his natural mother.
He calls himself “Kitten” and is pretty much always in drag. He’s the kind of crossdresser who doesn’t so much act like a woman as act like the most ridiculous, inaccurate stereotypes of femininity. He’s generally a completely frivolous bimbo obsessed with looking as girly as possible, all emotions and histrionics and flamboyant gestures, quick to swoon over a male and get all flirty and dependent and childlike.
He really doesn’t look all that much like a girl—OK, more than Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire, I’ll give him that—but the movie treats him as if he does. Like after he’s been dating someone for a while, he worries about how he’s going to break the news of his gender to him, as if that’s somehow in doubt. Or when he works in a peep show with girls, evidently he passes as female to the customers even when he strips down to almost nothing.
I guess he looks good enough for what he is, though, as he certainly has no trouble getting boyfriends. And not just one night stands, but guys who fall for him to a significant extent emotionally, and appreciate his fulfilling a very stereotypically feminine adoring, nurturing role that realistically very few women would fulfill anymore.
Though for all his romances, it’s a surprisingly non-sexual movie. There’s a lot more emotional connection than physical.
The Irish accents, including that of the protagonist, were a struggle for me. (And not just me apparently. One review I read said the main character needed to “speak up and stop mumbling.”) I probably missed a good 30% of the dialogue, which obviously makes it harder to follow and care about a movie.
I especially had trouble getting into this film for the first half or so. It wouldn’t really be accurate to say it’s uneventful, yet it feels that way. There’s a lot going on with IRA plots and such, but it’s as if he’s on the periphery of all of that, and since the movie sticks with him, that leaves us on the periphery as well.
I warmed up to him and to the movie a bit as it went along. He’s always likable in his way—with his childlike manner and good heart—so he’s not an unpleasant person to spend some time with and to root for.
Plus in the second half of the movie he does seem to exhibit more depth. There’s a pretty intense sequence where he endures abusive interrogation from the British about an IRA bombing. I think we’re supposed to know from material that came earlier (which was hard to follow because I couldn’t understand a lot of the dialogue) that he knows things that would incriminate people he cares about, so by keeping his mouth shut he’s showing considerable courage and fortitude.
As he comes closer and closer to finding his mother (and unexpectedly his natural father), that quest starts to feel more emotionally powerful and it’s easier to get caught up in it and sympathize with him.
But overall Breakfast on Pluto is still too lightweight to recommend. It’s longer than average—over two hours—and there’s not enough meat here to justify that.
Interesting soundtrack. It’s a mixture of good songs and the kind of throwaway top 40 songs that were ubiquitous for a few weeks or months way back when, and then I probably never heard a single time again in my life. The kind of songs that are maybe too cheesy to admit liking, but have a certain nostalgia value and catchiness to them.