Breakfast on Pluto

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Winter Passing

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        Sometimes I see the trailer for a movie and wait in anticipation for it to open here, and then suddenly they are out on DVD without ever showing up in non-select-city Baton Rouge. But all is not lost. That's when Blockbuster, Netflix and DIRECTV come in. This weekend I was in the ultimate select city and was able to rent movies at Kim's in The East Village, and which has everything. I saw two movies that I never had a chance to see in the theatre.

        The first is Breakfast on Pluto, directed by Neil Jordan, famous for The Crying Game. This new film has some strange similarities with The Crying Game, including cross-dressing, the IRA and the incomparable Stephen Rea. Breakfast on Pluto tells the story of an illegitimate child (Cillian Murphy), who is abandoned on the doorstep of the local priest (Liam Neeson) in a small town in Ireland. He doesn't really fit in, particularly since he is flaming from a very early age. And then, as all Irish seem to do, he moves to London. He is obsessed with finding his mother who left for London. Even more than at home in Ireland where at least he had some geeky friends, Murphy is a fish out of water in London. He meets, works with and dates a wide assortment of strange men. These include a character in a kiddie's them park (Brendan Gleeson), an IRA rock musician (Gavin Friday) and a magician (Rea).

        Breakfast on Pluto, has a great director and a nice cast. Neil Jordan, of course, will always be known for the 'surprising' film, The Crying Game. He does a nice job here of giving Breakfast on Pluto the feel of its main character, full of naive energy. But the film seems to wander around and not get anywhere much. It's a fine line. I could say the same thing about Winter Passing (See below) but in that movie I didn't care whether it went anywhere because I was enjoying the characters. In Breakfast on Pluto, I just didn't care that much. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) is very good. And Neeson, Gleeson and Rea are all good as usual. I love Stephen Rea. He can really put heart into a character like nobody else. But for some reason, I just didn't get into the characters in Breakfast on Pluto. Murphy is definitely doing a star turn but I didn't really care what happened to him.This is a movie that had lots of good buzz but never went anywhere at the Box Office. Most people who have seen it, seemed to like it more than I do.

        The second film is nice little Indie movie called Winter Passing. It tells the story of a struggling actress in New York city ( Zooey Deschanel) who is the daughter of a famous, reclusive, J.D. Salinger-like writer (Ed Harris) who still lives back in their home town in the U.P., the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Deschanel is working as a bartender and is just a little bit depressed. She is hired by a book editor (Amy Madigan) to go home and liberate some love letters written by her parents so that they can be published. When Deschanel gets home, she finds that the house is inhabited by a strange man (Will Ferrell) and one of her father's ex-students (Amelia Warner). Her father, haggard and unkempt, is living in the garage. She and her father have long been estranged. Her mother died recently but Deschanel didn't go home for the funeral. She begins to search the house for the letters while trying to figure out the weird living arrangements. Ferrell is half bodyguard, and half valet to Harris. And Warner is almost but not quite Harris' girlfriend. Harris himself is confused and alcoholic. I could tell you more but actually, not much happens as Harris and Deschanel try to repair their relationship.

        Winter Passing is very good. It's yet another film by a first time writer/director, Adam Rapp. But those first films are all from the heart. I liked Winter Passing a lot. It's definitely one of those dysfunctional family Indie films that get made all the time. But with a good director, a good script and a good cast, this kind of movie can be great. And Winter Passing has all those things. Deschanel, in particular, is great. She has made several films, usually in supporting roles. Her first lead part was a good one in All the Real Girls. And she was memorable as Jennifer Anniston's talky co-worker In The Good Girl. Recently, she was every astronomer's dreamgirl, Trillian in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Trivia: Zooey is the sister of Emily Deschanel who stars in the TV show, Bones). Ed Harris is always wonderful. This role is just a bit too similar to his role as an old, sick artist in The Hours. Winter Passing isn't a comedy but it has its comedic moments. Will Ferrell does a good job here of bridging the comedy/drama gap. Amelia Warner is new to me but she is good as the most normal person in the house. For some reason, Winter Passing fell through the cracks and appeared on DVD without much of a theatre run. It's too bad because it's a sweet movie.