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A queer underdog has her day in BREAKFAST ON PLUTO

Cillian Murphy in BREAKFAST ON PLUTO

We’re all familiar with the proverb, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” or some abstraction thereabouts. The phrase certainly proves true in BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, in which Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy), possessed of an irrepressible spirit that gets him into one predicament after another, is unable — and simply does not want — to hide what he is from the world. This sort of story is usually reserved for films about underdogs the general audience relates to and celebrates: ROCKY, LUCAS, Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL, even Holly Golightly in another BREAKFAST, this one at Tiffany’s. But it’s much rarer to find in a queer protagonist — especially one with an intrepid sense of fashion.

The similar elements in each film are simple: We have a crowded community with a moral code and rules of conduct and a slightly offbeat protagonist, with a childlike disposition and an outsider’s perspective, who surmounts the impossible. In BREAKFAST ON PLUTO, director Neil Jordan (of THE CRYING GAME fame) strips us of our comfort zone and asks if we’re able to sympathize with a young man who isn’t really a man, and not quite a woman, either. Saint Kitten bears the heavy cross of being born in the wrong body and no amount of punishment, scorn or death threats is able to change her (or coax more “polite”) behavior.

Being displaced in society is an unfortunate reality in the information age; the bullying of queer youths is a visible (and heart-wrenching) example. Not everyone has the innate strength to fight the world every day like Saint Kitten. It takes resolve and irony to make sure you don’t become a Real Housewife of Blah Blah Blah, let alone negotiate being born in the wrong body. A good soundtrack helps.

But Kitten’s strength rests in her belief that she is just as entitled to love, affection and family as anyone else. Her resilience is all that keeps her alive in a world that has no place for someone in between definitions. At a time when our culture is beginning to evolve out of the two-party gender system that has been the cause of much confusion and depression in the world, we are finally becoming more comfortable with transsexualism and gender-queer people so that they’re able to live productive instead of tortured lives. Trying to contain Kitten may have been painful for her, but the real frustration remained inside her aggressors, who were simply unable to take the girl out of the boy. And why bother — a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Ciao, Bill Shakespeare. And thank you, St. Kitten. You are a hero to many a budding gurl.

Be sure to catch BREAKFAST ON PLUTO Friday at 10P and all month long on Sundance Channel.

Photo credit: Sony Classics Pictures