I feel about the movie Breaking Away the same way I do about good pizza. Sometimes I get a strong craving to watch this movie that needs to fed as soon as possible. Breaking Away (screening Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. at the Dryden Theatre) has a magic combination of charisma, charm, sincerity, and good old-fashioned storytelling that I find irresistible.
The story follows young cyclist Dave (played by Dennis Christopher) as he aspires to become a pro, in the spirit of the great Italian cyclists. Training for Dave involves not just physical training, but adapting the persona and mannerisms of an Italian cyclist, right down to speaking the language, listening to opera, and eating Italian cuisine (much to the consternation of his prideful American dad).
Dave tools around with a trio of tight working-class mates (played with effortless naturalism by Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern) who behold him with solidarity, but keep his lofty aspirations in check with real-world skepticism. The gang is otherwise known as â€œCutters,â€ a reference to their fathers who all worked as stonecutters in the outlying limestone quarries. The irony is that they all live in Bloomington, Indiana, in the shadow of the University of Indianaâ€”an institution that their families helped build, but which none of them can afford to attend.
The Cutters have just finished high school, and are living in that weird, transitional phase prior to college, a professional career, or a life in the Army. Itâ€™s especially difficult for these kids, who have just been unceremoniously dropped from the goal-oriented routines of high-school sports. As Sternâ€™s character Cyril says, â€œI sure miss playing basketball. I got depressed as hell when my athleteâ€™s foot and jock itch went away.â€
In Roger Ebertâ€™s 1979 review, he states, â€œBreaking Away is a movie to embrace. Itâ€™s about people who are complicated but decent, who are optimists but see things realistically, who are fundamentally comic characters but have three full dimensions. Itâ€™s about a Middle America we rarely see in the movies, yes, but itâ€™s not corny and it doesnâ€™t condescend. Movies like this are hardly ever made at all; when theyâ€™re made this well, theyâ€™re precious cinematic miracles.â€
Breaking Away is presented in conjunction with the 2008 Rochester Omnium cycling event (August 8â€“10). For anyone who rolls in on a bicycle for this screening on Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m., we will offer a $4 admission to the movie. Free bike parking, as always.