Breaking Away (1979)

breaking away

“I didn’t want you to be this miserable. A little bit’s all I asked for.”


Lissa’s rating: Shaved legs and spandex.

Lissa’s review:
Apparently, Breaking Away is a pretty big movie.  It won an Oscar in 1979, it stars some fairly famous people, and it is listed in the top ten of sports movie lists and inspiration movie lists.  But for some reason, I’d never heard of it.  Got me as to why.

I thought my husband had solved that mystery when he explained the plot to me.  “It’s about this kid who bikes, and he gets obsessed with the Italian bike team so much that he wants to be Italian, and then the Italian bike team races….”  Okay, so this description isn’t doing him justice.  But to be fair to me, his description of the movie is actually pretty accurate.  It’s just a hard movie to sum up without sounding crazy.  There’s this kid that bikes, and he doesn’t know what else he wants to do with his life, and he’s obsessed with Italian bikers.

Breaking Away looks like another bad seventies movie.  College town versus townies… a “classic” conflict.  Boy meets girl, boy wants girl, boy engages in ridiculous stratagem to get girl.  Again, not overly promising.  And a lot of elements that just seem like they shouldn’t work together.  And yet, somehow, in some strange way… it does.  Breaking Away manages to be a coming of age movie with a central sports movie theme and a romantic comedy B-plot, and it does them all well.

I really expected Breaking Away to be fairly corny, and I have to admit, I wasn’t won over at the beginning.  But as the movie got going, I really did get drawn in.  For one, the dialogue was genuinely funny in spots.  I don’t know why- maybe prejudice against seventies movies- but I wasn’t expecting that.  The characters are interesting, the romance isn’t obnoxious, and the parents are fantastic.  I was really prepared to mock it, and I’m coming away humbly eating crow.  For all that yes, the clothing is cheesy and the production values are nothing like we’re used to, it really has its moments of dignity and tenderness.  And the music (mainly famous Italian classical pieces) was excellent as well.

While I really liked the friendship between the four boys, why is four such a popular number?  I mean, think about it.  A lot of these coming-of-age films have four boys (or four girls) — Stand by Me, October Sky, Now and Then, even Sex in the City and Big Bang Theory.  Anyway, I like the way these four bicker and argue, and the way they care about each other and encourage each other, even when they don’t agree (or aren’t even really listening to each other).  And it is kind of funny to see a young Rorschach play a short kid with a major crush and a penchant for working out.

I’m not sure I have a lot more to say about this one, but it really was surprisingly good and if you’re in the mood for a feel good, entertaining sports movie, check it out.

The Wright Brothers’ first attempts at flight were not so successful.


-Steve Tesich based the Dave Stoller character on David K. Blase, who had once led a team to victory in the Little 500 and had an Italian fixation. Blase had a cameo as the race announcer in this movie.
-Ranked #8 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
-The production team decided to call the Bloomington townies “cutters” because they felt the actual local nickname (“stoners” or “stonies”) would draw a parallel to drug references for viewers who were not raised in the area.

Groovy Quotes

Dad: He’s never tired. He’s never miserable.
Mom: He’s young.
Dad: When I was young I was tired and miserable.

Mike: They’re gonna keep callin’ us “cutters.” To them, it’s just a dirty word. To me, it’s just somethin’ else I never got a chance to be.

Dad: What are we gonna do about him?
Mom: I don’t know dear. We could always strangle him while he’s asleep.

Cyril: I was sure I was going to get that scholarship. My dad of course was sure I wasn’t. When I didn’t, he was real understanding, you know. He loves to do that. He loves to be understanding when I fail.

Dad: I didn’t want you to be this miserable. A little bit’s all I asked for.

Moocher: Well, you know, you don’t have to ride it either, Dave. We’re not gonna beg you.
Cyril: We may plead, but we would never beg!

If You Liked This Movie, Try:

  • Stand By Me
  • Invincible
  • Mystery, Alaska

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