Breaking Away Movie Review
Breaking Away is a 1979 coming-of-age film that is regarded as a classic within its genre, but to me it is a perfect textbook example of everything wrong you can do in this particular genre.
First, the story. It follows four teenagers and specifically the protagonist’s obsession with Italian, his relationship with his parents and of course his cycling competition in the end. All of these are delivered in such a cliched and entirely predictable fashion that it really starts to bother you. The script is so weak and barely ever moving away from the formula that I honestly cannot understand how it ever got away with it. But it somehow did, leaving critics rave how amazing it is when it frustratingly isn’t. But the ending is so typical that it is sickening. The whole sports drama in the end is so cliched and endlessly boring that they should have cut that whole bad part that definitely ruined the film.
Secondly and most importantly, the characters. They are, simply put, annoying and very unlikable. I have to be honest. They are developed, at least half of them, but are not sympathetic at all. Moocher and Cyril are barely developed and Mike is a typical Dennis Quaid character meaning that he is cocky and annoying. Then of course is the protagonist Dave Stoller who is the biggest reason why I found the film to be weak, he ruined the movie without a doubt. His behavior and voice are off-putting, but his obsession with Italian and constant speaking in the respectable language takes the cake as the most annoying thing in the entire picture. And his type of relationship with a girlfriend for the time Katherine is so cliched and has been used countless times. And the filmmakers never gave me a reason why the rest of the guys would hang out with him as they are obviously so different from him in both personality and interests. He is the biggest, major problem here and he is the weakest link. He is so annoying and even obnoxious at times.
So why do I give this film a passing mark if I hated the characters and story so much and they are the two most important aspects in each and every movie? Well, for two reasons. First, there are the technical aspects which are all excellent. The direction is good and the acting is phenomenal across the board. Every performance is great which is a big thing having in mind most of the actors were practically unknown at the time. The score is of course great, using the classical music at appropriate times thus achieving excellent editing as well. Technically, this movie is splendid and it is such a shame that this weak story got such a fantastic and professional treatment.
The second saving grace here is the father Ray, so wonderfully portrayed here by superb Paul Dooley. He brings the necessary humor to the film with his very amusing lines and comedic behavior. His relationship with his son is beautiful and is incredibly realistic and rarely portrayed so grounded as in this movie. The dialogue sequences between the two are wonderful and they are certainly the highlights here. They are filled with heart and excellent lines and beautiful emotion. They certainly lift the whole thing and it is a shame there wasn’t more of it.