All American Boys – Breaking Away

 Highly entertaining, self-mocking and irreverent, this is one of the very few films ever shot about cycling. An absolute must for bike lovers which reaches out to those who live for the rush of a two-wheel ride.

 

Late 70s. America hops in the saddle. A passion for cycling as a metaphor for personal growth – a story about getting ahead “in the saddle” – a rib-tickling tale full of deep insight.

The hero Dave comes from a working-class family in Michigan and has just graduated from high school. Together with his childhood friends Cyril, Mike and Moocher he kicks his heels around town, knowing that his opportunities in life are limited. The summer drags by punctuated only by dips in a waterlogged quarry, squabbles with uptown university students, short-lived love affairs and especially long bike rides.

Dave especially has a fixation with bikes and Italian culture – he often uses Italian expressions, listens to non-stop opera music and even masquerades as an Italian in the hope of winning the heart of a pretty girl called Kathy.

His father, an ex stone cutter, finds him exasperating and tries to get him to face reality in a place where life is already difficult enough without complicating matters with nonsensical dreams.

For Dave his bicycle is a way to chase after dreams of security and happiness that he feels to be beyond his reach. It is his way of “rejecting” the adult world. But adulthood catches up with him when the Cinzano cycling team comes to town for a race that he manages to take part in too. When the professional Italian cyclists speed past him and literally throw him to the ground, he feels bitterly disappointed.

Initially, he struggles with his identity, but when he has picked his hopes back off the floor, Dave finds the courage to enter the famous “Little 500” relay race with his friends, an annual event held at the University of Indiana where he will be pitting his wits (and legs) against the “obnoxious” college boys.

But we won’t spoil the end for you.

It is not a modern film, being almost 40 years old, but time has not robbed it of its freshness. It is a real gem that all bicycle lovers should watch once in their lives, but it is almost never screened on TV so our advice is to seek it out – unless you already have it on your shelves. In today’s technological society, everything can be brought to our door.

A side note: the scene where Dave astraddle his Masi Gran Criterium with Campagnolo Record gears chases the truck down the highway like a bat out of hell is quite memorable.

You can see why the film would focus on a bike like that. It is Oscar-worthy.

 

All American Boys – Breaking Away (1979)

By Peter Yates.

With Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Paul Dooley, Barbara Barrie and Robin Douglas.

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