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9/26/08

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This was a film that The Sports Guy wrote about as one best sports movies of all time, but I'd never seen till now. It wasn't on HBO when I was a kid, and I never heard anything about it till I was a grown-up film geek. Which I'm surprised by, because Breaking Away is a classic sports film, with all the clich├ęd scenes right out of screenplay 101, while also being a touching coming-of-age dramedy. It has great performances by the four lead actors; Dennis Christopher in the lead role of Dave Stoller, Dennis Quaid as his best friend Mike, their two good buddies, the reliably funny Daniel Stern is Cyril, and Moocher played by Jackie Earle Haley in his youth-prime, right after he played Kelly Leak in the Bad News Bears films.

Dave Stoller is the best bicyclist in a small mill town in Indiana. Which is like saying he's the fastest goldfish in a tank of goldfish. He wants to compete with the big fish, specifically the Italians. He even likes to pretend he's Italian, wearing their clothing and speaking non-stop with an Italian accent, which drives his blue collar father batty. The relationship with his parents feels very realistic, you can understand why the father is upset that after graduating all his son wants to do is ride bikes and talk funny, while his mother, a romantic at heart, sticks up for her only son and his dreams. His father tries to squash them by making him work at his used car shop, but is annoyed that his son is still happy.
"You're supposed to be miserable by the end of the day," he yells at him.

Dave's friends are happy to waste away their youth at the quarry, where they swim and try to show off for the college girls. One of whom, Dave impresses by pretending to be an Italian exchange student. Dennis Quaid's character Mike, likes to think he's the best athlete in town, but when he's shown up by a college kid, he's raging mad and brings his friends in on some juvenile ways of getting revenge. Their true chance comes in the form of a bike race, which Dave will anchor. But his focus is on the Italians, who are coming into town for a long distance event, where he'll finally get a chance to show his worth. His confidence is shattered when the Italians do something nasty to him, leaving his friends to pump him back up to get back on his bike.


Breaking Away
is utterly predictable in all the right ways. The boys are outcasts because they're "cutters", sons of the mill workers, that don't go to college. Dave's relationship with his parents and the way he teaches his father a thing or two. Dave's love interest, and the way he lies to get her to like him. Dave's rise to the top of his bicycling world, before crashing down and rising up again. There are training sequences and music montages. It's one of those films where you know exactly where it's going at all times, but that's why you love it. The film is well made, it's genuinely funny and moving, with great acting from all the characters, good guys to love and bad guys to hate, beautiful wide-screen photography that wonderfully captures the bike races, where you know exactly what's going on at all times. It's the rare film, where everything feels just right, nothing is out place and there are no bad surprises. - Grade: B+ (Seen on 7/7/08)


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