The Daily Bongo

Breaking Away

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies, Breaking Away. It stars Dennis Christopher, a very young Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley. Of the four, Dennis Quaid became the biggest star with Daniel Stern a surprising second. It seems that back in 1979 when the film was made, Dennis Christopher was thought to be the next hot thing, but obviously, things didn't turn out as expected. The movie was a sleeper hit. It wasn't a big budget movie, but the storyline had the stuff that great movies are made of.

Dennis Christopher played the main character of Dave Stoller. Dave had just graduated from high school and had managed to talk his parents into letting him take a year off from college or a job to find himself. Dave's other friends, Mike (Quaid), Cyril (Stern), and Moocher (Haley) are also looking for themselves. The problem is that they are from Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University, and there aren't alot of job options in the area. Also, they can see the opportunities they are missing that the college kids in the area have. Meanwhile, the college kids refer to the kids who live in the town as "Cutters" based on the fact that the majority of parents or grandparents were manual laborers who worked in huge stone quarries found around the town. You get the picture. The elite, educated person versus the working class person. What can the townies do but work in a car wash and clean the college kids beautiful cars? Dave thinks there is more to life and has a dream of becoming a bicycle racing champ (like the current day Lance Armstrong). The Italian team of Cinzano are his idols, and because of that, Dave walks around pretending to be Italian. This drives Dave's father (wonderfully played by Paul Dooley) mad. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie deal with the interactions between Dave and his father, who has such trouble understanding his emotional, dreamer of a son. The movie ends in a stirring bike race that pits the four friends as the Cutter team against the University bullies. It's more than just the four kids against the frat boys. It's a battle for all townies to prove their worth to the interloper.

Throughout the movie, you feel for Dave in his struggles to determine his fate. University isn't an option for his friends due to finanicial or intellectual constraints. Dave, however, has the ability to do better in his life, but that would mean at the cost of leaving his friends behind to a fate of low paying jobs and endless bills. Dave's father wants Dave to take the sensible road and join him at work in the used car lot that Dave's dad owns, while his mother (well played by Barbara Barrie) encourages him to dream. She realizes the regrets one feels when dreams are laid aside and never picked up again, and she doesn't want her son to ever say that he wished he had... She has a dream, and one day will use the passport that was a reasonable investment. Although there are somber moments in the movie, you get an overall uplifting feeling by the time that you reach the end. Even though Dave's dreams are crushed by the arrogant and brutal behavior of Team Cinzano, he finds encouragement and hope from his friends who even in the face of insurmountable odds don't give up the battle to show they are worth something.

As I said, I loved the movie. I became teary eyed when Dave was knocked out of the race by Team Cinzano, his dreams crashing to the ground with his bike. As he drives home with his friends, Mike comments that Dave is now one of them again. Being one of them isn't what one would aspire to because it is a life without dreams, just accepting the struggle of life. When Dave comes home, he tells his father that he didn't know that everyone cheated in life. You can just feel Dave's pain, and his father doesn't know how to respond when his son falls crying into his arms. As Dave's dad said, "I didn't want him to be this miserable, just a little miserable." It's a touching moment because you realize that behind all the gruffness that the father shows his son is an urge to do what is right for his son and to make him happy. When the movie ended, I was cheering and teary eyed with happiness because you knew that whatever happens, Dave would realize his dreams, and he would have a happy life. There are also plenty of funny moments throughout the movie to keep it from being too dark.

One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Dave works in the used car lot with his dad. Dave's dad is a fast talking salesman, and he sales a problem car to some college students. When they push it into the lot because the car won't start, Dave's dad tries to push the car out. A pushing match ensues. Dave shows up and said "but papa, if you said you would refund their money, we have to, You gave your word." At this point, Dave's father collapses. We then next see him in bed with a doctor leaning over him. Dave's father leaps up saying "Refund! Refund!" and just keeps on repeating the word. It was very funny. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. Rent the DVD today if you get the chance.

June 23, 2005