Breaking Away (1979)
Director: Peter Yates
Starring: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern & Jackie Earle Haley
Released by: Twilight Time
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From the director of Bullitt, Dennis Christopher (Chariots of Fire), Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) star in Breaking Away as a tight-knit group of friends in the university town of Bloomington, Indiana, as they attempt to sort their lives out following high school graduation. Self-diagnosed as outsiders, Dave (Christopher) takes his passion for cycling to new heights as a competitive race looms in their Middle American town.
Winner for Best Screenplay at the 1980 Academy Awards, Breaking Away remains a timeless tale of friendship and suburban serenity. Sitting proudly with other coming-of-age classics as Kenny & Company and Stand by Me, Breaking Away has retained an enduring shelf life due to its heartwarming notions and unique casting decisions that seal its natural identity of townies uncertain about their future. Dennis Christopher guides the picture with ease as recent graduate, Dave, obsessed with Italian cycling. Christopher channels much humor as he attempts to emulate his foreign heroes by learning their language, listening to classical opera music and even shaving his legs much to the dismay of his aggravated father (played wonderfully by Paul Dooley). The supporting cast shines brightly with Dennis Quaid as Mike, a former high school football player all too aware that his best days are behind him. In addition, Daniel Stern, in his film debut, and The Bad News Bears‘ Jackie Earle Haley round out Christopher’s best friends, all committed to each other and increasingly fearful of what lies ahead. Surprisingly, it is Peter Yates‘ direction and Steve Tesich’s charming screenplay, two non-Americans, that capture the film’s gorgeous small town American spirit. In addition, Director of Photography Matthew F. Leonetti (Poltergeist) basks the film in dreamy, sun-soaked lighting that romanticizes the setting to great effect.
As tensions mount with the universities jock population and Dave’s Italian heroes betray him in a race, a chance opportunity to compete in the Little 500 allows Dave’s “cutters” a shot at redemption and self-worth. Exciting and riveting, the film’s final race sequence will leave viewers on their feet and walking away with a feeling of bliss. Uplifting and accurate in its depiction of youth, Breaking Away is a coming-of-age gem that is unfortunately lacking in today’s zeitgeist.
Twilight Time presents Breaking Away with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Free of any dirt or debris, Breaking Away bears a clean picture with natural grain intact and rich detail best appreciated in Dave’s cycling uniform colors and the youthful acne scars on Jackie Earle Haley’s face. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Breaking Away does not exactly offer a grand scope of sounds to rumble its mix but, does offer audible dialogue with no anomalies to speak of. Special features included are a highly informative Audio Commentary with Actor Dennis Christopher and Film Historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. Christopher tells stories from the making of the film with clear memories and vivid detail while, Redman and Kirgo, quickly proving themselves to be the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of film scholars, moderate the track with ample knowledge leaving the viewer with a mountain of new information to absorb. In addition, two TV spots, Road to Adulthood (0:32) and Academy Booster (0:32) are included along with Dennis Christopher’s Fellini Story (12:53), an audio recording of Christopher’s chance encounter with the famed director that earned him a role in 1972’s Roma. Finally, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:57), an Isolated Score Track and a 6-page booklet with production photos and yet another compelling essay from Kirgo round out the supplements.
Heartfelt and humorous, Breaking Away is a cinematic treasure capturing the lives of youth in an idyllic American town. The young cast impresses with humble performances that have elevated them all to greater successes in their respective careers. Twilight Time delivers this charming Oscar-winning story with rewarding audio and video features and an audio commentary well worth its price. While, quality coming-of-age dramas may be far and few between today, Breaking Away remains one of the finest of its kind.
Available now from Twilight Time in a limited edition of 3,000 units, Breaking Away can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.