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I'm not much of a biker, and by that I mean I haven't ridden a bike
since I was probably ten, but there's something inspiring about Peter
Yates' Breaking Away that almost makes me wish I had kept it up.
Breaking Away is about teenager Dave Stoller and his buddies in the
small town of Bloomington, Indiana. Dave is obsessed with the Italian
cycling team and longs to be Italian, speaking the language and
listening to the music. He also vies for the affection of a college
girl in an almost Romeo and Juliet fashion. Dave and his friends are
what are known as cutters and they are despised by the college students
of the town. But this doesn't stop Dave from serenading the beautiful
Catherine under his sentimental Italian guise. Breaking Away is a
charming film that is plenty of fun to watch.
There isn't a whole lot to this film and it doesn't' intend to be much. It isn't hard hitting or dark in any way. It is a very innocent film that isn't much more than a delightful use of an hour and forty minutes of your time. This is a lighthearted film that doesn't demand any sort of harsh criticism or intense focus. Take this film as it is and just enjoy it. It is plenty worth it to just sit through the film, which is fairly short anyways, and enjoy it not as something grand and life changing, just a pleasant little film that has fun with what it's doing and will bring about warm and happy feelings in you if you just take it for what it is.
Breaking Away succeeds greatly from a character standpoint as all four of the main characters are plenty likable. They are portrayed excellently by the actors in this film and we really get the sense that these four really are lifetime buds. There really isn't anything to criticize about them as characters. They have their flaws but it makes them human. And thats what this film is more than anything. Human. It is a nice story that doesn't make us think and it doesn't hit hard emotionally, but it can be easily enjoyed as a pleasant story that is believable enough for your typical underdog story.
You wont find anything revolutionary or groundbreaking here but you will find a simple and heartfelt story that will please you for the hour and forty minutes that you watch it unfold. There isn't too much more to this film other than just a happy tale of success and friendship. It is well written, well directed, well acted, and is just an all around well put together film. It isn't something I would watch again, but I don't regret giving it a shot.
Many comments for this film describe the small town effect and how this charming comedy captures the feelings of such a place at such a time in teen boys lives.... but what of us others who saw BREAKING AWAY in other countries under completely different conditions? well I ran a little beach side cinema at the time and I was only 24... fresh from college and 5 years out of my own teens. In Australia we so well identified with this film, as we also have with many others like THE OUTSIDERS or RUMBLEFISH or RACING WITH THE MOON or maybe even KISS ME STUPID... but what was universal about this hilarious film is the fact that it captures humorously and generously a true rite of passage for all boys and their well meaning parents.. whether they be wealthy or working class or idyllic Australian... Even though the characters and their parents were not like mine or that of their friends, I somehow felt as though they all were the people I could easily know if I lived somewhere else. THE PAPER CHASE is probably a great sort-of sequel to BREAKING AWAY without that ever having been planned that way. What a great time 1979 was and films like this just made it so. BREAKING AWAY captures the era and the towns and the kids and the country as well as the America everyone elsewhere was interested in. Hot sunny days in Anywhere USA, by the river or at the swimming hole with funny silly friends.... and suddenly it was all over and we had to get serious about working. I ran BREAKING AWAY many times often on hot summer nights at my seaside holiday resort cinema, a small town by the sea with an annual influx of wealthy tourists who only came once a year. Everyone identified with it and they all cheered many times, sitting in a warm cinema with all the doors and shutters open to let a breeze through. BREAKING AWAY makes me love my life and 1979 as much as I loved the films of that year. It is a truly evocative film. The opening scene in the spectacular quarry is an absolute attention getter and the film weaves an elating set of characters and themes and hilarious situations together so well right up to the thrilling bike race climax. A genuine crowd pleaser and a particularly effective film for teens to love watching with their parents.
So, as our "hero" discusses the Tour De France at the end of the movie, there is one thing to consider. One of the Italians is actually John VandeVelde a six-day track racer back in the day and the father of Christian VendeVelde who finished fifth in the 2008 Tour De France. Christian has been a pro cyclist for several years and rode as a domestic for Lance Armstrong helping him win the Tour De France in 1999 and 2001. Christian wore the white jersey as best young rider in 1999. He also finished 3rd in the 2008 Tour of California and wore the leaders jersey in the 2008 Tour of Italy after the first stage. Vive VandeVelde!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A friend of mine knows the screen-writer and told me to check out the movie so I did with little expectations and was totally surprised as how good it was. The acting was the most surprising part. I really like everyone and I actually think Dennis Quaid was the weakest. The ending was cliché and I knew they were going to win, but that did not matter to me as I watch it. The writing was not quite Oscar caliber in my opinion, but I am not sure who it was up against, but it was not bad. Surprisingly my favorite parts of the movie, was when David was training and the music got me really pumped and going even thought it was classical. I really liked how the soundtrack was timeless and really added to the whole feel of the movie. Maybe I need to be younger to really appreciate the movie, but I still loved it and would not mind watching it again.
Breaking Away was not just surprisingly good, it was surprisingly
EXCELLENT. I never thought I would be as intrigued by a movie about
life in rural Indiana as I was. The story was well written and the
acting was stellar as well. I loved Dave Stoller's character played by
Dennis Christopher, and Raymond Stoller (Paul Dooley) was great as the
unintentionally funny father.
It was a classic tale of the haves and the have-nots with the have-nots being the "Cutters". In any other movie I'm sure I would not have watched nor rooted for a cyclist like I did in this movie. You couldn't help but root for the Cutters. They epitomized the typical everyday, blue collar, hard working American and their winning was a win for everyone like them. A great movie.
I loved this movie from the start. After seeing it in a theater, I
caught it every time it played on TV and eventually bought the VHS and
then the DVD. This film does what all great films should do-- it
creates a world and lets you come in and live there for awhile. Each
character is so strongly drawn that you really feel you know them. The
story is almost irrelevant. You just go along for the ride (on a
bicycle, of course)and observe human nature. The Midwest setting is
also a bonus. It is nice to see a film set in Indiana rather than
California or New York.
The father-son relationship is revealing and comical without being trite. The buddies are like the guys you may have grown up with, flawed and somewhat stupid at times, but loyal and goodhearted. I don't want to say too much about the story because you need to just sit back and get into it on your own. You may end up buying your own copy, too.
An excellent film - outstanding.
It is very romantic, idealistic - but also very true. The movie captures the essence of Bloomington Indiana - ordinary, Midwestern - the economy always down, regular folks trying to make the best of things and near bye there are.....
rich College kids.
I loved this movie, my favorite American movie since 1960. Gives us all hope that regulear American folks can dream great dreams and win great victories.
View this movie and give some abuse to Italian bicycle professionals who cheat the young Midwestern Indiana romantic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Presently there are many American coming-of-age films that deal with a
youth's disenchantment of the world they live in, and the violence
youth create against society to show that intolerance and resentment. I
also think that every film should have at least one scene (or shot)
that can crystallize the emotions and feelings of it's characters.
Present juvenile/youth films, I feel, lack particular scenes and good
acting that can crystallize the impact of a film. One film from the
past that does use a particular scene (or shot) to crystallize the
feelings of the disenchanted youth, which can also be represented in
one non-violent scene(or shot), is Dennis Quaid's honest portrayal of
Mike from the 1979 coming-of-age film of four Indiana high-school
friends, "Breaking Away."
(Scene Spoiler) In the scene where Mike, Dave, Mooch and Cyril are watching the Indiana University football team practice in the IU stadium, director Peter Yates uses them as metaphor to represent the growing number of working, disenchanted, non-college-bound-youth being on the outside track, wishing they could afford the luxury of college and to be on the inside track. The impact of this metaphor is greatest on Mike (Dennis Quaid), who was the star quarterback for the high school football team. As Mike is watching the IU scrimmage, the sun is setting in the background between the rafters of the dark and towering IU stadium. I believe Yates used the symbolism of the setting sun as a metaphor to represent the four main character's own lives--once bright and full of golden promise; to that of a towering and growing darkness, leading to feelings of frustration, anger and despair.
An effective, non-violent scene/shot (made over 25 years ago) that is true yesterday, true today and true tomorrow in summarizing America's struggling youth.
(When I first saw this film in 1979, I drove a 1970 gold Buick Skylark--like Mike's car--except mine was a four-door. I had just graduated from high school and went to state college. After seeing the film a couple years ago on cable, it really brought me back to my youth and the summer and fall of 1979. Whenever I view it on DVD, it still makes me reminisce about my youth--remember the "Little River Band"?).
I have a difficult time watching movies, because I am aware of the production going on, the cameras in the background, and all the artificial ingredients needed to create a film. But this movie is so real that it makes me completely forget everything except the characters themselves. Perhaps this movie came about at the exact time in my life when I was breaking away, I don't know, but the script and the portrayal are brilliant. One expects the main character, Dave Stoller, to be the lead in the film, but truthfully, everyone is a lead in the film, and Paul Dooley-as Dave's father, is an absolute gem. The 'refund' sequence when he's laying in bed kills me every time! But the speech he gives about what it is like to be a cutter could have come from the mouth of my own father. It is a true delight of a film that should be on anyone's top 10-or top 5 list for that matter, and to this day it still blows me away!
Breaking Away is a movie that never gets tiresome to watch. It is
simply good clean fun and it is a pleasure to see such a well thought
out and well acted movie. The characters are part of our adolescent
past and crowd our memories with the struggles that most of us had in
bridging that difficult gap between childhood and "I wish I was a kid
The cast of characters for the movie is as good as it gets and the tension the movie portrays, from parents, siblings and personal friends, in the difficult task of making major life decisions ("you're not a quarterback here Mike") is pretty special.
I wouldn't make more of the movie than it is. It is a simple story that is universal in its application, well told and well acted.
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