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COLUMN: The underappreciated aspects of 'Breaking Away'



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"Breaking Away," directed by Peter Yates, was released in 1979. The film focuses around one of the main characters, Dave, and his victory in the Little 500 for the Cutters team. Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

With the Little 500 race this weekend, I decided the watch the famous film “Breaking Away” for the first time. Being an out-of-state student at IU, I didn’t know any of the traditions on campus or around Bloomington.

I enjoyed watching the movie, and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to write a piece from the perspective of a first-time viewer.

There were many parts in the movie which made me smile, shake my head and even raise my fist into the air. Here are all of the underappreciated aspects to Peter Yates’ film which will make you want to watch again and again.

The quarry

Everyone had their own spot growing up to hang out with friends, and the quarry was the place where the main characters, Dave, Mike, Cyril and Moocher, bonded. Whether it was diving off the stones and into the water or gossiping about the IU students they hated, the guys made the most unlikely of places such a beloved part of the film.

When Mike saw the IU students taking a swim in the quarry, he treated the scenario as people invading their territory. His reaction is understandable and relatable to anybody who once connected with a certain location and didn’t want anyone else to appreciate its glory.

Dave’s crush on Katherine

We’ve all been in a situation where we act like someone we’re not in order to impress the person we have a crush on. Dave goes over the top, masquerading as an Italian exchange student in order to sweep Katherine off her feet. I have to give him extra credit for nailing the Italian accent and calling her “Katarina” as a part of his act.

Serenading Katherine outside her sorority house was impressive, especially since the song was Italian, and bringing Cyril along to play the guitar was a power move.

Like all scenarios similar to this one, Dave ends up confessing to Katherine and she breaks off their fling. All good things have to come to an end.

Cyril

Where do I even begin with Cyril. The man accompanies Dave to Katherine’s sorority house, plays guitar while Dave sings, and then gets beat up by Rod and his friends after they mistake him for Dave. If that isn't a real friend, I don’t know what is.

Dave and his idols

When a professional Italian cycling team comes to town, Dave enters in the same race as his idols. After Dave keeps up with them in the race, they grow frustrated. One of the bikers jams a tire pump into one of Dave’s wheels, which causes him to crash. He’s heartbroken and realizes some people cheat when no one is looking in order to get their way.

Dave also sees this in his own father, Ray, after a man wants a refund on the car he was sold. Dave’s dad refuses to take the car back because he already made money off of the sale.

Dave’s bond with his parents

Throughout the movie, Ray doesn’t see eye to eye with Dave regarding his son’s love for all things Italian and his love for cycling. After Dave is heartbroken about the Italian cycling team incident, Ray realizes how hurt Dave is. It's the first time Ray comforts Dave in the movie.

Ray takes Dave to Herman B Wells Library one night and explains how he cut the limestone for the building’s construction but was never comfortable on campus for some reason. This is where Dave and Ray bond and where Ray comes around to support his son in pursuing his dreams. Before this scene, we really don't see Ray support Dave in anything, and this is also the first time we see the soft side of Ray. Anyone with a father of the same personality can relate to Dave.

Ray ditches his dealership on the day of the Little 500 race to go support Dave and made it in time to watch his son win the race for the Cutters. Their relationship makes any father and son duo watching the movie come closer together.

As for Dave’s mother, Evelyn, she supports her son throughout the movie. She makes him Italian meals and encourages Dave to go compete in the race with the Italians. Evelyn’s support is constant and is a model for any mother who supports their children in everything they do.

Dave puts the team on his back

Dave is literally the reason the Cutters win the Little 500 race and should always be appreciated. Dave singlehandedly builds a significant lead on the rest of the field. He gets injured in a crash, but it doesn’t matter. He tapes his feet to the pedals after taking a short break and comes all the way back to win the race at the last second. There isn’t much more to add to this. The man is a beast.

Nostalgia

I know IU alumni can attest to this point. I, as I’m sure they did, paid extra attention to every single campus scene in the movie. Viewers get the chance to see buildings such as Franklin Hall, Ballantine Hall, Wells Library and Memorial Stadium. The birds eye view of the Little 500 track is beautiful and is also weird for current students since it’s located where the arboretum currently is.

Before the race, the crowd in the movie sings the IU fight song, and you bet I sang and clapped along. Even though "Breaking Away" is about townies, Hoosier nation can relate to this part, which brings everything together for the final scene.

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