Breaking Away (1979)

“They’re gonna keep calling us ‘cutters.’ To them, it’s just a dirty word. To me, it’s just something else I never got a chance to be.” The sleeper hit of the summer of 1979, this well-acted comedy/drama takes place among a group of townies (known as “cutters”) in an Indiana college town. The aimless teens—“Dave” (Dennis Christopher), “Cyril” (Daniel Stern, in his film debut), “Mike” (Dennis Quaid) and “Moocher” (Jackie Earle Haley)—focus their energies on winning a bike race (the “Little 500”) against the rather snobby college students. Dave is so obsessed with the Italian cycling team that he adopts a phony Italian accent and tries to woo a beautiful college girl, “Katherine” (Robyn Douglass), under false pretenses (she believes he’s an Italian exchange student). Highlights include Dave serenading “Katerina” at her dorm with an assist from Cyril on guitar, Moocher punching out the time clock during his brief stint at the car wash, Dave’s negative encounter with the Italian cyclists and, of course, the exhilarating final bike race. The strong supporting cast includes Paul Dooley as Dave’s father “Ray,” a rather crusty used car salesman; and Barbara Barrie as his kindhearted mother “Evelyn.” Directed by Peter Yates and scripted by Steve Tesich (who won an Oscar for “Best Original Screenplay”), Breaking Away was filmed in and around Bloomington, Indiana. Breaking Away was nominated for Best Picture but lost out to Kramer vs. Kramer.

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