Breaking Away (1979)
Breaking Away (1979)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: July 20th, 1979 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Peter Yates Actors: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley, Robyn Douglass, Hart Bochner, Amy Wright

 


 

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our 19-year-old friends – Dave (Dennis Christopher), Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern), and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) – revel in bicycling, swimming, and goofing around in their small Indiana town, favoring the local quarry as a tranquil hangout. Though seemingly carefree, Dave has recently become obsessed with all things Italian, ever since discovering that the world’s greatest cyclists hail from Italy. From food to language to music (to renaming the cat Fellini), Dave attempts to absorb the culture, as if that will somehow make him a better racer.

“It’s our son that’s ruining my heart.” Dave’s parents (Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie) aren’t thrilled with his compulsion, but they do their best to tolerate it while also worrying over his societal value. Meanwhile, as the youthful foursome contend with jobs, friendships, girls, and rivalry (college girl Katherine Bennett [Robyn Douglass] provides both a love interest and the source for a new rival), Dave reads in a magazine about an upcoming, local event in which an Italian team is scheduled to compete. “The Italians are coming!”

An honest, authentic, down-to-earth script is the highlight of this blithe, comical, coming-of-age story. Pairing the plights of average adolescents with a rousing sports drama proves to be a winning combination; here, the protagonists are in that uncomfortable after-high-school stage, too poor to go to college and too young to start a meaningful career, though still with their whole lives ahead of them. Despite their age, they battle thoughts of past primes and general worthlessness, as if they peaked during their senior year and have nothing to look forward to athletically, financially, or with popularity. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Nevertheless, the realism of the premise is refreshing. It manages to be pleasant and upbeat (partially thanks to the energetic, classical score), even as it focuses on the pessimism of uncertain futures and the stresses of small town tedium. The actors are also impressive, imparting a believability rarely captured on the big screen. There’s a heartfelt, familial purity and sweetness at work, oftentimes overtaking the oversimplified classification as a mere sports movie. It’s exciting during the racing sequences – especially at the climax, where unanticipated adversities take their toll – but “Breaking Away” is, predominantly, a triumphant exercise in indissoluble friendships and the indomitable human spirit.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10