This charming, Academy Award winner (1979, Screenplay) cycles high on comedy as four friends come to terms with life after high school. When top-notch cyclist Dave (Dennis Christopher) learns that the world's bicycling champions are always Italian, he attempts to turn himself into an Italian, driving his parents (Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley) crazy. But everything changes after he meets the Italian racing team-an encounter that ultimately leads him and his friends (Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley) to challenge the local college boys in the town's annual bike race.
Peter Yates' 'Breaking Away', nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, introduces audiences to four young men from Bloomington, Indiana during their first fall out of high school: Dave (Dennis Christopher), Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley), Mike (Dennis Quaid), and Cyril (Daniel Stern in his feature-film debut). The foursome are trying to find their place in the world since their original boyhood plan of wasting the rest of their lives together is not feasible.
The pressure to figure things out is amplified by living so close to Indiana University and its students who already have a leg up on the gang. There's animosity between them because some of the college students look down on the locals, calling them “Cutters” in reference to the many who worked in the stone-cutting industry, like Dave and Cyril's fathers.
We also see the frustration of Mike, who was a quarterback in high school, but can now only read about the IU players in the paper. While Wooderson from Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused' appreciates high-school girls because “I get older, they stay the same age,” Mike can't stand incoming freshman for the same reason.
Mike is also frustrated because he sees Moocher and Dave breaking away from the group. Moocher is in love with Nancy (Amy Wright) and needs to get a job so they can start a life together. Dave is in love with cycling, especially the Cinzano racing team. He tries to immerse himself in the “I-talian,” as his father Ray (Paul Dooley) pronounces it, culture, speaking in a broken accent and listening to Italian opera. Dave's mother, Evelyn (Barbara Barrie), tolerates his antics, as long as he doesn't turn Catholic, but they drive his father crazy.
Dave is a gifted cyclist, who frequently wins local events. When it is announced the Cinzano team will appear in an upcoming race, we see Dave train. The college cyclists are shown using a car as a wind break. Dave uses a semi truck on the freeway because of the high speeds he can attain. During the race, Dave learns things about his heroes that will help him on his journey to adulthood. Deciding honestly is the best policy, he reveals himself to Cathy, a college girl who he pretended to be Italian around. Her reaction, while understandable, is slightly over the top.
Steve Tesich's Oscar-winning screenplay takes familiar story elements for a coming-of-age story and creates unique and memorable characters and situations. The former is certainly helped by the talented cast. Christopher is so believable evoking Dave's sincerity. Stern exudes Cyril's intelligence and awkwardness with great ease. The highlight is Dooley, who starts off as an exasperated and curmogedonly man who doesn't understand his son yet comes around as they better understand each other. He also has the benfit of being given some of the funniest lines.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Twilight Time presents 'Breaking Away' on a limited edition 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a standard blue keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a six-page booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. Colors are strong hues, as seen in the green fields of Indiana, the yellow jersey Dave wears when riding, and the reds of the university football uniforms and the vehicles at Ray's used lot. Blacks are inky and whites are bright.
Although there are soft edges due to the source, there's very good clarity and contrast in daytime exteriors, especially during the climatic bike race. On the other hand, a lot of beige and low light used in Dave's home contributies to the video's dim appearance. Night exteriors and the sequence of Dave working in the garage on the bike are also not as clear. There's slight banding around street lights.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Dialogue is clear throughout except when intentionally overwhelmed by the loud quarry machinery. At the soft end of the spectrum, the fanit rattle of bike chains can be heard travelling through the sprockets, revealing a wide dynamic range,
For mono, the track does a good job of having effects sound like they recede into the distance and delivers some slight ambiance. The orchestra comes through with good fidelity. There's no overt signs of evident age or defect.
'Breaking Away" is an emotional, exhilarating film about growing up that remains authentic and accurate four decades later thanks to the realisitic characters created by the screenwriter and cast. The Blu-ray delivers a pleasing HD presentation but lacks in extras beyond its enjoyable commentary track. This release is recommended.