Breaking Away is one of the biggest ”sleepers” ever made, a low budget film that became a huge success due to an audience that loved the film and spread the word. A refreshingly different sports movie, also critical acclaimed and got (5 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture).
Breaking Away is maybe more of a coming of age story than it is a sports film, although a big bicycle race dominates the second half of the movie.
The setting is Bloomington, Indiana, where four lifelong friends just have graduated high school. They spend their days together, just hanging out and committed never to break up their friendship or way of life for anything. Of course, their parents have another opinion, and urge them to get a job, go to college, or start a family. Bloomington is a divided town, basically in nonstudents and the students of Indiana University. The locals, non-students define themselves as cutters, this originates from the former pride of the town – the stone industry, stone that the university was built from. But from the former stone industry is a fragment left; only the name of locals, cutters, remains.
Our four heroes, nonstudents and in away pariahs —in a college town, but in same time their own town. They hang out in the forest at a water filled pit, their very own swimming pool, discussing and define a state of mind and what to do when and if, between the swimming sessions. It is four rather different characters, Mike (Dennis Quaid) who was a high school football star and pretends that he doesn’t want to play college ball; Moocher(Jackie Earle Haley) a short kid who pretends he doesn’t want to be taller, Cyril (Daniel Stern) a mix between nerd, looser and philosopher and our hero Dave ( Dennis Christopher) a passionate cyclist and Italian lover since they have the best cyclists, the true royalties of the world at least as he sees it. His secret dream is of course to be a pro-cyclist.
While hanging out at their place, a gang from the college shows up, paying no respect to the fact that it belongs to our friends. As Mike, the angriest of the four, remarks bitterly, “These college kids out here, they’re never going to get old. There’ll always be new ones coming along.”
Dave, is an up-and-coming cyclist, adapts everything that’s Italian; he speaks Italian, sings Italian opera and gets his mother to cook Italian food. Dave’s father thinks his son have gone totally nuts and hates all of it, but above all, them ‘-ini’ foods, zucchini, and linguini and fettuccine,” and demands some real American food, like French fries. He tells the family cat,”Your name is Jake, not Fellini!”
Daves father tries to convince him to find a job and seeks support from Dave´s mother in this urge, but Dave hangs out with his buddies and parallelly does some serious bicycle training on his own. His escapism is both hilarious and touching. This Italian orientation totally goes out of control when he falls in love with a college girl and pretends to be an Italian exchange student. Serenading her outside her dormitory, at the same time as the rest of his gang is confronting the college boys in a campus café. It becomes a huge fight, and the officials of the town are proclaiming a bicycle race and urging the cutters to attend. This as a tryout to make both cutters and college students competing in the same conditions and of course befriends each other.
Dave’s three friends, of course, see this as their opportunity for revenge, Dave is the cyclist, and he can win for them all. But then he has to come out in front of Caterine/Katherine his love, as a cutter and not Italian. The rest of the three boys also have to prove them self; the young angry one has to dare to take the fight when it comes to an end, the other to stand up for themselves in other ways. The movie culminates in a real thrilling bike race, where everything is tied up together, AND Dave’s father is having a pizza!
Produced and directed by Peter Yates; written by Steve Tesich
Cast: Dennis Christopher (Dave), Dennis Quaid (Mike), Daniel Stern (Cyril), Jackie Earle Haley (Moocher), Barbara Barrie (Mom), Paul Dooley (Dad), Robyn Douglass (Katherine), Hart Bochner (Rod), and Amy Wright (Nancy).