Februrary 3, 2013
Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley
Breaking Away is a movie that was a really big deal to
who grew up in a certain era. Chances are that if you were a
teenager in the late 70's, specifically if you were a teenager in the
midwest in the late 70's, well you probably know and love this movie
with all of your heart. It is one of those movies that I am
guessing is kind of like the late 70's equivalent of The Breakfast
Club. For people who were a specific age at a specific point
time, I am guessing it is known and loved by just about
However, if you DIDN'T grow up in the late 70's, well I am
guessing then we have quite a different story. Chances are
if you are under the age of 30, heck maybe even if you are under the
age of 40, odds are that you have probably never even heard of this
I was born in 1974. I was five years old when Breaking Away
came out in 1979. And it was never even on my radar when I
kid. Seriously, it was not even anywhere NEAR my radar.
could have told me that there was a really good coming of age story
about poor kids who grew up in Indiana, and one of them wanted
be professional cyclist, and I probably would have thought you were
talking about Hoosiers. And then I would have corrected you
Hoosiers was actually about basketball, not cycling. And I
would have thought you were an idiot.
to know how far Breaking Away was from my radar? Well this is
movie that very nearly won Best Picture. It was nominated for
Academy Award in 1980. It is also one of two big movies from
70's that starred Jackie Earle Haley. And his other big movie
(The Bad News Bears) is one of my top three all time favorite movies.
And do you want to know when I saw Breaking Away for the first time?
Last week. I saw it for the first time last week on AMC.
Now since I have only seen Breaking Away once,
obviously I can't sit here and regale you with trivia about it like I
can for other movies like White Men Can't Jump or Top Secret.
just don't know it all that well to be able to say very much about it.
What I DO know is that I had heard about it for years prior to
ever actually seeing it. "Hey remember Kelly Leak from The
News Bears? Well he was in another movie too!" I
heard it was good, and I knew that part of it was in some way about
But other than that I really didn't know anything about it.
I honestly had no idea who was in it other than
Haley. I had no idea it was set in Indiana. I had
no idea that it was one of Dennis Quaid's first movies. And
don't really care about cycling, it was never really all that high on
of movies that I had any interest in. It was just one of
those movies where I figured "Okay, maybe I will see it one day, maybe
I won't. But if I never get around to seeing it, who
Because who cares about a movie about stupid bicycling."
Now batting for the Cutters... number three...
Well like I said, I finally saw Breaking Away for the first time last
week on AMC. I saw that it was going to be on one night so I
And then I sat down to watch it with my wife.
I really had
no idea what to expect.
All I knew was that Kelly Leak was in it
and there would probably be bicycling. And since it
in the late 70's, there would probably be some fantastic
Dennis Quaid('s hair)
I watched Breaking Away for the first time last week and I
really liked it. It wasn't the greatest movie in the world,
obviously you probably had to grow up with this movie to really be
enamored with it, but I thought it was a neat little time capsule of
1979. I mean, you watch this movie and you REALLY feel like
are a poor kid growing up in Indiana in the late 70's. There
level of authenticity here that most movies try for but never achieve.
But with Breaking Away, you absolutely feel like you are
there in this movie. And I should know, because I remember
about the late 70's to remember what they felt like (and more
importantly, what they looked like.)
And this is exactly what 1979 looked like
In theory, Breaking Away is a movie about cycling.
what you will see if you read any review of it. It is a movie
four kids ("The Cutters") who grow up poor in Indiana, and they fight
with the nearby college kids from Bloomington. And they spend
nothing but swimming at the local rock quarry. In truth they
basically bums. They don't really have a lot to look forward
to other than doing nothing and being bums for the rest of their lives.
Hanging out at the local rock quarry
Oh yeah, except for the fact that one of the kids has dreams of
being a professional cyclist. He dreams of becoming a famous
so he can move out of Indiana and travel to Italy. And then
he can race
bicycles for the rest of his life.
Dave (Dennis Christopher) trying to learn Italian
Like I said, in theory this is a movie about cycling. But
be turned off by that description, because it really isn't a sports
movie at all.
In truth, this is a movie about coming of age.
about four kids who are out of school, and who are trying to find their
way in the world, and
about all the obstacles that poor kids face when they get out of high
school and they realize that the world doesn't really care about them
To call this a movie about cycling is kind of missing the
This isn't a sports movie at all, it is a movie about what it
was like to be a poor kid in Indiana in the late 70's.
Like I said before, the authenticity in this movie is quite
If you would like a 90's equivalent to Breaking Away, this movie
reminds me a lot of Dazed and Confused.
Welcome to the late 70's
So I watched Breaking Away for the first time last week, and I
thought it was pretty good. Afterwards, I remember thinking,
I can see why this was on American Movie Classics. It was
actually pretty well done."
My wife asked me what I thought of it and
I said to her, "Well it's not going to ever win any awards or anything,
can see why people would like it. It has a good heart to it."
course then I went on the internet and I read a little about the
history of this movie. And I found out that I had
underestimated it quite a bit. You see, I had no idea that
Breaking Away had once been a Best Picture nominee.
I had no
idea that many people consider it to be the best movie of 1979.
no idea that, among people of a certain age, this movie is as beloved
as Inception or The Godfather or Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club.
In fact I
was quite shocked when I realized how ridiculously I had underestimated
what a following it has and how many fans it actually has out there.
Breaking Away is so beloved that Entertainment Weekly recently had a
reunions issue specifically dedicated to it
And so this is why I wanted to include it on my list.
Away. A movie that I completely wrote off and underestimated
nearly 30 years. And if I wrote it off and underestimated it,
am quite sure that many other people have written it off and
underestimated it too. After all, I am the guy who has
seen just about everything. And if it took me (a guy who
actually did grow up somewhat in the late 70's) thirty years to care
enough about this movie to actually see it, I can't imagine how rarely
been seen by people who are younger than me.
So there you go. There is my gift to anyone who grew up
in the late 70's and who has a soft spot in their heart for Breaking
Maybe now people who are younger than you will actually
see it too. Maybe now they will get a glimpse into what your
like as a floppy haired poor kid back in the 1970's.
else, maybe they will think you had cool cars back then and that you
really badass swimming hole.
This is where you could go swimming in the late 70's. Jealous
favorite IMDB user reviews about Breaking Away:
The best film of 1979 - 4
low budget ensemble films (or any films, for that matter) have ever
clinched the love that fans hold for Breaking Away. No one should
really care about the stinky humid summer Bloomington, Indiana drama
peopled with down and out townies who despise, and alternatively long
for, the harbored, segregated collegiate life of the Indiana University
student populace sneering at them from their own backyards. We witness
a most unlikely story of comeuppance, an even more unlikely college
administrative act of altruism and fraternal good-sportsmanship: the
townies are invited to compete in the Little 500 (a cycle race which
has today earned it's own enormous velodrome). Venture to guess that
the little guys face foes insurmountable, grievances, the derailment of
woman's lure, bad luck, discrimination, infighting and reconciliation.
Loosely aw-whateverly, they band together in a duel against an enemy
insurmountable. Even in the final act, they fight, poke, punch, and
holler at each other, never changing and never ceasing. If you don't
love this underdog film, and shed cheering tears for its gift, you
don't love life nor film. Period.
A film to treasure!!! - 5
Away is a picture that is better than the sum of its parts. Oh, its
parts are wonderful. The writing is sharp, observant, and funny (It won
an Oscar!), the acting is superb (how Paul Dooley was nixed a
nomination never mind the award I'll never know), and it is a well shot
film. But its charms go even deeper. It is the story of four young men
in their late teens, who are staring adulthood in the face after a year
of leisure in the "small town" of Bloomington, Indiana, and how they
deal with watching successful college kids pass them by. It is also
about a young man in search of an identity (including that of a Italian
bicycle racer), and of a family that is loving and supportive, almost
in spite of itself. All these add up to a richly enjoyable, deeply
moving family picture that gives us many moments to treasure (a large
number include Paul Dooley as the frustrated and confused, but
eventually loving father). Like other sports movies (the lead character
races bicycles), it has a contest at the end, and like many much poorer
ones, it ends with triumph. But we cheer not only for these immensely
likeable "cutters," but for ourselves, for being treated to this
bittersweet, touching, and wonderful movie.
Sweet but not saccharine
- 26 May 2002
film was a pleasant surprise. No sex, no violence, no special effects.
Just an incredibly literate and humorous script (which won an Oscar for
Steve Tesich) and fantastic performances by the four leads. This is a
film for those who still believe that good cinema requires meaningful
dialogue and acting that is achingly real in its sincerity. Don't get
me wrong: sex and violence have a very real and justifiable place in
film; but this movie would have suffered from such a gratuitous
inclusion. Peter Yates, the director, has done a fantastic job of
pacing the film, and the score, consisting mostly of Rossini overtures,
and excerpts from Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony (#4 in A Major, Op.
90), is an inspired touch, adding precisely the right atmosphere. This
is the kind of low-budget triumph that the film community constantly
extols for P.R. purposes, yet never supports with actual awards.
Charming Sleeper - 15
went to see this movie when it first came out. We had decided to go to
a double feature of two movies that we had never heard of, knowing that
in that day and age, a double feature meant that at least one, if not
both movies, had to be pretty awful. The first film was Starting Over
with Burt Reynolds, and it was fairly good. So my friends were sure
that the other would have to be terrible, but we had nothing better to
do, so I convinced them to stay. Before three lines of dialogue I was
absolutely hooked. I have seen it at least twenty times and the witty
dialogue and rapport of the characters gets me every time. The music
accents the film beautifully. The cinematography is gorgeous. But the
story is what really matters. Four guys finding there way in a place
where they feel little hope for the future, one a dreamer whose dreams
are crushed, but he finds the spirit to pick up and start dreaming
again. Delightful all the way around.
Great coming of age
story. - 3 August 2002
Away tells the story of four teenagers on the threshold of manhood and
the troubles they have in adapting to the pressures that are
increasingly coming to bear upon them. Dave, Michael, Cyril and Moocher
spends their days in the water filled limestone pits ruminating on
where their life is taking them. To the local college students they are
nothing more than "cutters", townies hanging onto to the past glory of
their high school years. However, they see themselves in the prime of
their lives, enjoying each day as though summer will never end and only
sometimes fearing what the future may hold for them.
brought to a head through Michael (Dennis Christopher), a cycling
phenomenon obsessed with all things Italian (much to the chagrin of his
father). His misadventures with his cycling bring him into contact with
his hopes, fears and the future. His experiences bring him closer to
his friends and his father and show him a world beyond the small town
in which he lives. To paraphrase his father (an actual stone 'cutter')
during one touching scene in the film "I don't want to see my son grow
up in the holes we cut.."
Breaking Away is a wonderful film that
is beautifully shot and treats the trials of a teenager on the verge of
adulthood with respect and dignity (something that cannot be said for
most teenage films nowadays). The dialogue, particularly between
Micheal and his father, was wonderful and shows that families can be
dysfunctional without being abrasive. While Dennis Christopher was the
standout actor as Michael, he is well supported by an ensemble cast
including a very young (and very fit looking) Dennis Quaid. If you're
looking for an uplifting film that isn't overly sentimental, Breaking
Away is the film for you.
Highest praise! - 1 July
movie that hits the timeless social themes. Rich/poor,
educated/uneducated, close knit family/broken home,
protestant/catholic, dreaming of/settling for, pragmatism/altruism, all
these were expressed.
The movie uses the term "cutters" as a
derogatory term used by the college kids towards the townies. It is
developed later in the movie that "cutters" refers to the many quarries
and stone cutting that used to employ much of the town, and which
supplied the stone to build the college. The most powerful scene in the
movie is when the used car salesman father explains to his son why his
son has opportunity he never had. The father also has the funniest
scene in the movie which left him incapacitated muttering "refund,
Forget the cycling. They could have been riding
lawnmowers and this movie would have been worth watching. If you enjoy
character driven movies, this is one not to miss!
at the IMDB
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