Breaking Away (1979)

Breaking Away (1979)


In Bloomington, Indiana, a group of blue-collar friends (Dennis Christopher, Fade to Black, Dennis Quaid, Innerspace, Daniel Stern, Home Alone, Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children) ponder upon the future. Job prospects for them don’t look good. They are also made feel inadequate by the wealthy students attending Indiana University. A local cycling competition might just be the biggest thing to happen to these kids.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Breaking Away, directed by Peter Yates, was the “sleeper hit” of 1979 — a low-budget, unpretentious dramedy that took audiences and critics by surprise. This endearing, charming film deserved all the accolades, and it has aged well.

Breaking Away perfectly encapsulates 1970s teen angst. I know what I’m talking about. Like the teenagers in the movie, I was a ’70s kid whose summer vacations were filled with lazy days and many uncomplicated misadventures. But people of different generations can appreciate and enjoy the film too. There is something universal in the theme of young people trying to find their purpose in life. And there is something utterly irresistible about underdogs triumphing over big obstacles.

Steve Tesich’s Oscar-winning script touches all the bases — it’s a coming-of-age with pathos and humor. The characters are appealing and the situations feel real. Yates, who directed the action classic Bullitt, does an outstanding job filming the last race. Usually, directors rely on multiple takes during action sequences. Yates does something that’s unexpected — he shoots the last two laps using a single uninterrupted wide-angle. The experiment works exceedingly well — it’s an exciting sequence.

The cast is perfect. Christopher is terrific as a local cyclist obsessed with the Italian culture. Barbara Barrie (Oscar-nominated) and Paul Dooley (Popeye) nearly steal the film as Christopher’s long-suffering parents. Dooley, in particular, has some great lines. Look closely for the great P.J. Soles (Halloween and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School). With Hart Bochner (Supergirl) and Amy Wright (The Deer Hunter).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Breaking Away is still a great movie about young people. Followed by a short-lived TV series. Color, 101 minutes, Rated PG.


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