Oh my, what a perfect charmer. This is Jordan doing what he does best: intimate, wincingly funny stories about little people on the margins who are filled with hope for no good reason. Anyone who’s ever worn green on St. Pat’s could have directed Michael Collins and anyone who’s ever passed a DMV eye exam could have directed Interview with a Vampire, but only Jordan could have made Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, and this. Cillian Murphy is brilliant as Kitten (nee Patricia, nee Patrick) Braden, an orphaned (da’s a priest, mother’s the washerwoman) Irish transvestite steel magnolia (steel shamrock?) who adores sequins and love songs, and fearlessly throws a cache of IRA rifles in a lake after his friend is killed by a car bomb. Yes, that’s “and,” not “but”; Kitten’s not strong in spite of her sensitivity, she’s strong because of it, and that’s what makes her character so compelling.
It would be interesting to watch this movie in a double bill with Almodovar’s All About My Mother. Both films feature heart-of-gold and tough-as-nails transvestites, an overarching plot structure dependent on a search for lost parent(s), love/hate relationships with the Church and its representatives, and totally giddy, far-out, campy-as-hell-and-then-some art direction. Hm. Gets you thinking. England:Ireland :: Franco:Spain?
As in The Crying Game, transvestitism is used here as a juicy metaphor for Anglo-Irish relations. Issues of crossing, passing, identity, and fear of the other tear up Kitten’s personal life while at the same time those same issues are tearing up public life of both England and Ireland. The film manages to be sweet and smart at the same time. A lot like Kitten herself.
Sidebar: Stephen Rea has a terrific cameo as Kitten’s magician lover. Where is this guy’s star turn? He’s so excellent, but aside from his roles in Jordan movies, he seems to get nothing but minor parts. Or am I forgetting something?
I realize just now that I watched this, coincidentally, the same week that Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, also starring Murphy, also dealing with Irish troubles, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.