Skip to content

Breaking Away (1979)

August 5, 2010

9/10 Slacker Uprisings

A tragically forgotten and entirely timeless coming-of-ager.

Breaking Away is about a kid who graduates from High School and decides to take a year off to hang with his “bum” friends and pursue his one true passion in life: competitive cycling. But since his friends aren’t exactly the most upstanding citizens in the township and the kid’s father doesn’t give half a rat’s ass about anything having to do with Ities and bicycles, he’s forced to tread his own path and find out the hard way how to lead his life despite what others expect of him.

So, as mentioned earlier, I think I’m grabbing at sticks right now in regards to finding folks who actually know what the hell this movie even is. I’m thinking some of y’all are looking at those “CUTTERS” T-shirts on the poster and thinking, “Those there young’ins could afford to stop listening to so much of that ’emo’ music I keep hearing about, ” but that really has nothing to do with why this movie is nothing short of seminal for anyone who feels like they’re the biggest fish in the smallest pond. And for the record, they’re referring to granite cutters, so that should be the least of your worries anyway.

On the one hand, Breaking Away is a tried and true sports movie. It’s Rudy, it’s Rocky, only it’s with bikes instead of football, and while I’m thinking that most of us Americans wouldn’t lose a whole lot of sleep without getting the latest update on the Tour de France, you’d be surprised at how engrossing this sport becomes even if you haven’t so much as hopped on an elliptical machine in your time. I mean, you put an underdog in any kind of situation, how in the hell can’t you root for ’em like gangbusters? Face it: we’re suckers for ’em and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The protagonist of our story is Dave Stoller, played by the one-hit-wonder himself, Dennis Christopher. The reason he’s a one-hit-wonder in the first place is because he’s done absolute jack crap since this came out roughly 30 years ago, but all the same, he’s one memorable individual. For a good long while he’s got this Italian kick going where he talks like he’s right off the Pinta, shaves his legs like his idols on the Cinzano cycling team and refuses to call his parents anything other than “Mama” and “Papa”, but as annoying as it may seem in one sense, it’s entirely endearing in another. Even though there were times when I wished he would just stop singing opera music and try to hit on girls like a normal human being, Stoller as a whole adds a lot to what makes this movie so unique and fun in the first place and I really have no idea why he phased out so quickly in the wake of his initial fame.

But for all his quirks, the thing to love about Dave Stoller is that he’s not “normal”. He’s more on the weird side than anything else, but there’s a passion and flame to it that you can’t deny no matter how out there he may be. He’s a guy you stick by, someone who’s stamina makes you feel like a beached whale for all the right reasons, someone who makes you want to stand up and scream, “If Dave can do it, so can I!” and that’s something else.

And then there’s Dave’s niche of friends played by the now-great Jackie Earle Haley, Daniel Stern (who very much needs a comeback) and Dennis Quaid (who continues to kick ass whenever present) and this is one of those instances that should make us all wonder why it took so long for them to be household names in the first place. Granted, Daniel Stern isn’t much of a household name outside of “That ‘Wet Bandit’ guy from Home Alone,” but all these guys have talent to spare which continues to go untapped.

And bonus points to Paul Dooley (the ultimate ’80s dad) as Dave’s father who’s waking nightmare is providing refunds for customers at his used car dealership.

Look, Breaking Away isn’t just a great sports movie, it’s a movie about believing in yourself and not buying the bullshit when others tell you that you’re never going to amount to the person you know you’re gonna be. We’ve all gone through periods in our lives where he spend Summers being professional hanger-outers, but we also all have that spark within us that’s just waiting to get set ablaze like an effing inferno, and this is one of those stories that’ll keep it burning strong. Man, I grew up on this movie and as often as I’ve seen it over the years, it’s still breaks me down like an infant with each viewing and it still keeps me plugging along towards reaching all my goals that I know I can reach. The pacing might not be as razor sharp as one might expect these days, but it stands the test of time like no other and it’s about time it got its due.

Proud Cutter for life over here.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2010 2:27 am

    Great review man, I need to check this movie out.. it sounds bomb.

    • August 6, 2010 8:11 am

      Totally is, man. It’s on Netflix Instant, highly recommend it.

  2. August 5, 2010 5:20 am

    Love your opening line. Spot on! I saw this a few years ago on the recommendation of a few film forum members and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of the film before. One of the best coming-of-age films. There’s also a great cast and it’s nice to see some recognisable faces before they became recognisable! I love the relationship between Dave and his parents in this movie. If you haven’t seen it, watch it! 😉

    • August 6, 2010 8:12 am

      Atta’ boy, Dan. Glad to see there’s at least someone out there who shares the love. Those Stollers were great, huh?


  3. August 5, 2010 1:04 pm

    This movie I have always heard great things about but never got to seing it. Def going to check this out man! BTW I tagged you in a new meme, check it out here brah:

    • August 6, 2010 8:18 am

      Hey! Thanks for the tag, homey. Will get to it asap. Def check out this movie, too. Great stuff.

  4. August 5, 2010 2:18 pm

    Daniel Stern…where have you gone? Live-action Dilbert movie perhaps?

    • August 6, 2010 8:20 am

      Hahaha, he was involved with Dilbert, or is that just strangely wishful thinking?

  5. laurenthejukebox17 permalink
    August 7, 2010 4:55 am

    This movie is so underappreciated – I love it!

    Great reviews, I could read them all day (and I sort of have… not to sound like stalker or anything). Keep ’em coming! I recently started up a movie-reviewing blog myself – …Feel free to check ’em out if you’re in the mood to read something from a terribly undereducated being. Anyway, I think you’re cool and your reviews rock so that’s it. So long. 🙂

    • August 11, 2010 8:01 am

      My thoughts exactly, no idea why this has fallen so far under the radar over the years.

      And thanks for the love! Your site rocks and it’s SO on the blogroll. Keep on keepin’ on and I’ll be checking it. PEACE!

  6. August 9, 2010 2:26 pm

    BREAKING AWAY!! Damn! That is a flash from the past! One of my absolute favourite films when I was a kid. Haven’t seen the film in years and years…might just be time for a walk down memory lane.

    • August 11, 2010 9:32 am

      hahaha, a movie totally worth revisiting after all these years. so damn good, I was choked up like you wouldn’t believe at the end of this.


  7. Kevin permalink
    January 16, 2011 6:10 pm

    I love BREAKING AWAY!!!It was filmed in my hometown and I remember seeing cast and crew all over at the time.My dad was a cab driver and had took many of them to and from different spots.Almost nothing in the movie is still here because it has changed so much over the yrs,Its fun to watch and remember what was!!!

  8. LeftyFromBrooklyn permalink
    July 9, 2012 4:46 pm

    Just watch it after being inspired to do so by someone who recommended it on a sports chat room. The movie is still very fresh, funny, and inspiring after all these years. I strongly recommend it. Enjoy!

    • July 25, 2012 11:35 am

      So do I and glad you liked it, truly one of the greats. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. RIP Peter Yates « Cut The Crap Movie Reviews

Drop that knowledge!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: