A young cyclist obsessed with Italian culture attempts
to court a college girl and win a local bicycle race.
Breaking Away (1979)
Directed by Peter Yates
Written by Steve Tesich
Starring Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern,
Jackie Earle Haley, Paul Dooley, Barbara Barrie, Robyn Douglass
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Barbara Barrie), Best Director, Best Original Score
I did not expect Breaking Away to be a comedy, but I am so glad it was. This is a film I had never heard of before, and watched only to round out the five 1979 Best Picture nominees for our Oscar Sunday Podcast. But this is a film that will be going into my rewatch list, because it is a joy. Breaking Away is one of the best coming-of-age movies I've ever seen. You can feel bits and pieces of films like Dazed and Confused, Stand by Me, Dead Poets Society, and even Revenge of the Nerds. It feels like a template movie for so much that would come after, and to top it off, it's pretty damn funny too.
Welcome to Bloomington, IN, home to the University of Indiana, as well as the local townies. There's a rift between the college kids and the townies, who are locally referred to as cutters. One of these cutters is a bicyclist named Dave (Christopher) who is obsessed with Italy. He speaks Italian, he plays Italian opera in his room, and he loves the Italian cycling team. He and his friends didn't go to college, and are unsure about what to do with their lives. As the film progresses, Dave tries to woo a college girl and takes on the college kids in a big bicycle race. It's all pretty by-the-numbers stuff, but it's told in such a charming and engaging way. The relationship between Dave and his father (Dooley) is particularly well told, and Daniel Stern steals the show as Dave's dumb friend Cyril.
I highly encourage coming-of-age story fans to check out Breaking Away. It's a funny, well-acted, well-written story of a young guy trying to figure out what he cares about in life. It's a story of old friends gradually drifting apart because that's the way things happen. There's a lot of relatable stuff in here, but it's balanced out with enough hilarity to keep it entertaining.