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Breaking Away (1979)

aka Breaking Away

"The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma!"

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 100 mins · English, French, Italiano · PG (USA)


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"The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma!"

"Somewhere between growing up and settling down..."


Dave (Dennis Christopher), Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern) and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) are four working-class friends, living in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. Now turning 19 years of age, they all graduated from high school the year before and are not sure what to do next with their lives.

The four friends spend much of their time together swimming in an old abandoned water-filled quarry, but also often clash with the more affluent Indiana University students in their hometown, who habitually refer to them as "cutters", a derogatory term for locals stemming from the local Indiana Limestone industry and the stonecutters who worked the quarries.

Dave is obsessed with competitive bicycle racing, particularly the Italians, because he recently won a Masi bicycle. His down-to-earth father, Ray (Paul Dooley), a former stonecutter who now operates his own used car business (sometimes unethically), is puzzled and exasperated by his son's love of Italian music and culture, which Dave associates with cycling. However, his mother Evelyn (Barbara Barrie) is more understanding.

Dave develops a crush on a university student named Katherine (Robyn Douglass) and masquerades as an Italian exchange student in order to romance her. One evening he serenades "Katerina" outside her dorm, with Cyril providing guitar accompaniment. When her boyfriend Rod (Hart Bochner) finds out, he and some of his fraternity brothers beat up Cyril, mistaking him for Dave. Though Cyril wants no trouble, Mike insists on tracking down Rod and starting a brawl. The University president (then-University president Dr. John W. Ryan) reprimands the students for their arrogance toward the "cutters" and over their objections invites the latter to participate in the annual Indiana University Little 500 race.

When a professional Italian cycling team comes to town for a racing event, Dave is thrilled to be competing with them. However, the Italians become irked when Dave is able to keep up with and even speak to them in Italian during the race. One of them jams a tire pump in Dave's wheel, causing him to crash, which leaves him disillusioned and depressed. Although he had been upset with his own father earlier for his unethical business practices, Dave now realizes that everyone cheats.

Dave's friends persuade him to join them in forming the locals' cycling team for the Little 500. Dave's parents provide T-shirts with the name "Cutters" on them. Dave's father remarks how, when he was a young stonecutter, he was proud to help provide the material to construct the university, yet never felt comfortable being on campus. Dave is so much better than the other competitors that he rides without a break and builds up a large lead, while the other teams have to switch cyclists every few laps. However, he is then injured and has to stop. After some hesitation, Moocher, Cyril and Mike take turns pedaling, but soon their lead evaporates. Finally Dave has his feet taped to the bike pedals (signifying that he must complete the race without substitution) and starts to make up lost ground; overtaking Rod on the last lap, he wins for the jubilant Cutters team.

Dave's father is immensely proud of his son's accomplishment, and takes to riding a bicycle himself. Having finally decided on a direction in life, Dave later enrolls at the university himself, where he meets a pretty, newly arrived French student. Soon, he is extolling the superiority of French cyclists and culture, and the film ends with Dave greeting his father with "Bonjour, Papa" much to his father's astonishment.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2002-01-29