Movie Mirrors Index

Breaking Away

(1979 c 101')

En: 8 Ed: 7

Written by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates, four young men out of high school without jobs try to compete against college students. One of them is an outstanding bicycler and is enamored of everything Italian, irritating his father.
      In the woods Mike (Dennis Quaid) is singing about the A & P as he walks with his friends. Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) admits he is going to shave his legs. Cyril (Daniel Stern) points out the rock where he lost all interest in life when he caught his girlfriend with another guy. Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) says they are married now. Mike tells him that if he had not told him about them, he never would have followed them there. Cyril thanks him for helping him lose all interest in life. Moocher says he is not seeing Nancy anymore. They talk about not having to write about how they spent their summer. Cyril says that when you’re eighteen, you get to vote, drink, and see dirty movies. He asks what do you get to do when you are nineteen. His dad told him that Jesus never went fifty miles from his home and look what happened to him. They dive into the lake formed by the quarry and swim.
      Dave is riding his bicycle while carrying his trophy and singing an Italian song. An old lady sees him and says that he was as normal as apple pie, but now she pities his parents.
      Ray Stoller (Paul Dooley) is eating grapefruit at the table and swats a fly. He asks his wife Evelyn Stoller (Barbara Barrie) what cologne his son wears and says the flies seem to like it. She brings him weak coffee and a salad, and he asks if that is it. She says his doctor warned him about his heart. He says his son is ruining his health. He gave him a year off so that he could do what he wanted, and he has turned into an I-tie. He thought his Italian talk was funny at first, but it is not funny anymore. She waters plants and says he was very sickly until he started riding around. He says his body is fine, but now his mind is going; he used to be smart. He thought he was going to go to college. She thought he did not want him to go to college, and he asks why should he go to college. When he was 19, he was working the quarry ten hours a day. She says most of the quarries are closed. He thinks he should find another job. She says they are not easy to find. He wants him to come home tired from looking. He says he is never tired or miserable. She says he is young. He says when he was young, he was tired and miserable. He had his own place at seventeen. She says that he said that Italian families stay together. Ray reminds Evelyn that they are not Italian. She says she came from a big family, and it was nice. She says Dave thinks they should have another child.
      Dave comes in with his bicycle and trophy using Italian, and his father asks if he won again. Dave says the victory was easy. He says the Italians are coming soon and that he will race with the best of them. Ray complains that he brought flies in with him. Dave says that fly in Italian is “mosca,” and Ray says in English it is “pest.” Evelyn puts the trophy on the table, but Ray does not care and says he never got a trophy in fifty years. Dave gives him his trophy as “numero uno papa” and kisses him on the cheek. Ray tells him not to do that. Dave goes to take a shower. He puts on a record of Italian opera music. Ray says he will have this out with him now, but he comes back and tells her that he is shaving his legs. In the bathroom Dave sings “Figaro” as he shaves his legs.
      Nancy (Amy Wright) knocks on the door of an old house, and Moocher lets her in. She says she is on her way to work and that she is leaving home to move about five blocks south. She found a nice little place to rent. He picks up a bar bell and lies down to do bench presses. She sits on the couch and asks if he will help her move. He says sure and asks about her job. She says her boss told her she will become head cashier in time. He offers to walk with her to work.
      Ray is working on his used car lot and tells a young man that the car gets 30 miles to the gallon. He tries to sell the car. Dave on his bicycle speaks in Italian to his father who asks the customer if he is a friend of his.
      The four friends are sun bathing at the quarry after they all got fired from working at the A & P. Moocher tells Mike that only he got fired while the rest of them quit. Mike says, “All for one and one for all.” Moocher says that not many places are going to hire all four of them. Cyril asks them if they know what he would like to be, and Mike says, “Smart.” Cyril describes how cartoon characters can be hit in the head by a frying pan, changing the shape of their head. Then they shake their head back to normal. He asks if that would be great. Mike asks how he got to be so stupid. Cyril says maybe it was dumb heredity, and he asks Mike what his excuse is. Mike climbs over him to get to the top of the sloping rock and dives into the water. Dave asks Moocher if he heard from his folks, and Mooch says his dad called and told him there are a lot more jobs in Chicago; but he has not got anything yet. He wanted to know if the house is sold because he needs the money. Dave says he can live with him when it is sold; in Italy everyone lives together. Mike swims under water and goes into a chest and closes the top. Moocher tells Dave that since he won that Italian bike, he has been acting weird. He asks if he thinks he is Italian. Cyril says he would like to think he is somebody. Moocher thinks the door is stuck and dives in to save Mike. The others dive in too, but Mike has climbed out already and says it has no back on it.
      Five college kids arrive on the other side of the quarry, and one dives off from a great height into the water. Mike shouts calling them “bastards,” and one of them calls them “cutters.” Mike says they have indoor and outdoor pools on campus, but they have to come there. Mike says it is his quarry, and Cyril mocks this. Mike insults Cyril and suggests they get out of there.
      They are in Mike’s hot car, and he drives and waves to a Marlboro sign. They drive by the campus of the University of Indiana, and Cyril likes the tits of the girls. Moocher says they have it made, and Mike says it is because they are rich. Dave says Italians are poor, but they are happy. Mike says maybe in Italy. Katherine (Roby Douglass) is playing with a Frisbee with others. Cyril wonders what it is like to kiss a co-ed and says he thinks about that a lot. The car runs over the Frisbee, and Mike stops the car and laughs. He notices one of them giving them the finger and backs up his car. Moocher says they are on their turf. Mike stops and then runs over the Frisbee again, and Rod (Hart Bochner) calls him a “retard.”
      The football team is practicing as the four friends watch from a nearby hill. Mike says he was a great quarterback in high school and still thinks so. He is angry that he has to read in the newspaper about the new star on the college team. They walk away from the stadium. Mike says he is just going to be 20-year-old Mike or 30-year-year-old Mike. The college kids will stay the same age and never get out of shape because new ones come along each year. He says they will keep calling them “cutters” which to them is a dirty word but to him is something he never got to be.
      Dave is studying a book on Italian phrases, and he sees Katherine leave on a motorbike. He notices she dropped a notebook and gets on his bicycle, picks it up, and rides to catch up with her with the notebook in his mouth. When she stops on a sidewalk, he hands it to her and asks if it is hers while speaking in Italian or with an Italian accent. She tells him her name and thanks him again and says goodbye. He says, “Ciao.”
      Dave rides his bike on a road through the woods and gets a flat tire. A car leading college bikers training comes by him.
      Ray asks Evelyn what they are going to do about it. She has made some French fries for him to calm him down and tells him not to expect any more. He says he can’t eat with the Italian opera noise on and goes toward Dave’s room. Dave comes out of the bathroom and starts eating the French fries. Ray tells Evelyn he is not in his room and then comes back and tells him to stop eating his French fries, taking the plate. Dave cries out, and Evelyn comes back and asks what is the matter. Dave says it is his heart. She takes the French fries, and Ray says they are his. Dave says he has a pain in his heart because he is in love.
      Rod is driving a car and tells Katherine that he learned the guy sent her flowers, and he asks her who he is. She says he is some crazy guy she met.
      Dave gets the mail and reads in a magazine that the Italians are coming to race in Indianapolis. He jumps up and tells his mother. He puts his bicycle together and rides to hug and kiss the mailman before riding on the highway fifty miles to Bloomington. He sees the Cinzano truck and rides in the slipstream behind it. The truck driver signals four fingers for 40 miles an hour. Dave comes around to pass, and the driver signals five fingers for 50. Dave struggles to keep up, and the truck driver is going 60 and signals six fingers. They hear a siren, and a police car pulls over the truck. Dave rides on and checks his watch as he arrives in Bloomington and pours water on his face.
      Dave in a towel after a shower fixes food for his cat.
      Mike pulls over to talk to Dave on the sidewalk. Dave says the Italians are coming. Mike says Moocher is going, and Cyril says Moocher is getting a job. Dave rides his bike while holding on to the car as they drive to a gas station. Moocher gets out of the car and says he needs the job. The boss tells Moocher that he is late and that he will not let that happen again. Moocher says he is sorry, and the boss gives him a rag and towel for washing cars and reminds him to punch the clock, calling him “Shorty.” Moocher looks at the time clock and punches it with his fist, breaking the glass. The others guys shout, “All right,” and he gets back in the car which leaves as he tosses the towel out the window.
      Evelyn calls Ray to dinner, and he asks what it is. She says it is sautéed zucchini, and he says he does not want Italian food. She says it is not because she got it at the A & P and that it is like squash. He says he knows the Italian foods because they end in “ini” like zucchini and linguini, and fettuccini. He says he wants American food—French fries. She calls the cat Fellini and tells it to get off the table. He says it is his cat, and the name is Jake; he won’t have any “ini” in this  house.
      Tall Cyril jogs along with Dave who is on his bicycle. Cyril says he misses basketball. He thought he was going to get a scholarship; but his dad was understanding when he didn’t. He says his dad is always understanding when he fails. Dave says he is going to take a college entrance exam to see if he could pass, and Cyril says he may take it too.
      The four have got pizza, and Mike tells them they should be in Wyoming. Mike says all you need is your horse and your bedroll. Cyril tells him to remember his toothbrush because he is still in his cavity-prone years. They see Mike’s older brother walking toward them in his policeman’s uniform. He asks Mike if he was hot-rodding around campus again. Mike says he wasn’t, and his brother says he will have to take the car back if he keeps it up. Mike says, “All right.” He asks how they are doing and walks away. Cyril says they are a little disturbed by the developments in the Middle East. Mike calls him a “pussy cop.” Mike suggests they drive down to Terre Haute tomorrow to get out of the B-town. Moocher and Cyril say they are busy tomorrow, and Mike says he may go himself.
      During Italian music Evelyn is washing the wood floor. In his room Dave tells Cyril to play the song louder on his guitar.
      Dave is riding his bicycle with Cyril behind him. They stand below a sorority, and Dave calls to “Katarina.” While Cyril plays guitar, Dave sings a serenade to her at the window upstairs.
      At home with Italian music Evelyn has a candle-light dinner with Ray.
      Dave goes down on his knees as he sings. In the sorority a girl calls Rod to tell him that a guy is there serenading Kat.
      Evelyn sits on the bed in her nightgown and robe, and Ray removes pens from his pocket.
      Dave finishes his song, and the girls applaud him. Cyril says goodnight and thanks them. Some fraternity men chase him. Dave is walking his bike and talking with Katherine who says she has to go in. She says she has never been serenaded and that it was a lovely evening. She thanks him in Italian and kisses him. He tells her, “Buona notte.”
      The next day Cyril’s face is bruised. He does not know who did it, but he says they all used Brute aftershave and reeked of Lavoris. Mike asks what he was doing there by himself, and Cyril says he was just walking. Mike asks about the car, and Cyril says it was a Mercedes convertible. Mike asks if it was blue and says he has seen that car. He says if they want to fight, they will fight. Cyril says his friends, the rednecks, are few while the college pale-faces are many; so he counsels peace. Moocher says he has to go somewhere.
      Nancy is in the blue Mercedes with Rod who asks if she has pledged a sorority yet. She says no, and he says most fraternity men would not go out with her; but he is the exception. She knows he is on the swimming team. Mike is going in reverse and drives next to the blue car, asking if that is him. Cyril says yes. Nancy asks who they were, and Rod says “cutters” or “townies.”
      In the evening Mike pulls his car into a parking lot and sees the car. Cyril says he does not think they can go in there. Mike tells him to watch him. Moocher gets out of the car too.
      In the restaurant Dave and Katherine are sitting a table when Mike, Cyril, and Moocher come in. Mike leads them into the bowling alley. Cyril gets his fingers stuck in a bowling ball and brings it into the restaurant. Dave is pretending to be an Italian student as he tells her about his family. She says she does not miss her parents. He says her parents miss her at home. He tells her not to smoke. Cyril asks Nancy what her major is. Rod asks what the cutters are doing there and tells them to get lost. Mike asks Cyril if Rod is him, and Cyril says no. Moocher says they should get out of there, and Rod says that is a smart move but calls him “Shorty.” Moocher wraps his fist in a napkin and starts a fist fight. Cyril uses the bowling ball and swings it around to keep them away from him. Mike is fighting. His brother comes in and orders them to break it up. Rod tells the policeman that the cutters started it.
      A college administrator is lecturing the “boys” who were caught as Mike’s brother stands by. He tells them they can compete with the boys from the town in a bicycle race this year, but Rod says they are not good enough.
      At the quarry Dave says he does not want to be in the little 500. Mike thought he would jump at the chance, but Dave does not want to be seen with the college kids. Mike asks if he wants to beat them. Moocher asks if they need four people to make a team, and Mike says they have four. Mike says they all enter, and then Dave rides the whole thing to win. Dave says he is going to be working that day because he is going to get a job. Mike gets angry and asks if he is going to be working on the day of the Italian race. Moocher says the time comes when they have to go their own ways. Mike says he is a real adult who has grown up. Moocher says it has to happen some time. Mike asks if that is what Nancy says, and Moocher tells him to leave her out of this. Mike tells him to shut up, and Moocher says he is not the quarterback there. Mike says he was once which is better than being a midget all his life. Dave tells Mike to cut it out. Mike tells Dave not to speak in Italian because he is sick of that. Mike thinks Dave is afraid of the college guys. Moocher says that Mike is not right. Mike says he is afraid of wasting his life with them. Cyril says he thought that was what they were going to do together.
      They see college kids on the other side of the quarry. Mike climbs up, points, and dives in. Rod dives in too. They swim to the middle and begin to race. The girls root for Rod who swims better than Mike who hits his head on a rock but keeps swimming. In the middle he gets tired and flails around. Dave, Moocher, and Cyril come in and rescue him.
      Dave is walking with Moocher in town and says he tried to call her to tell her, and Moocher says she will see him in the 500. He says if she really likes him, she won’t care. Moocher says that he and Nancy are getting married. Dave asks if he is Catholic and if he ever went to confession. Moocher says he went twice, but it only made him feel better once.
      Nancy is waiting outside the courthouse, and Moocher apologizes for being late. She says they will ask about blood and relatives. She says she brought only $4, but they need $5 for the marriage license. He says he will go Dutch and put in a dollar. Dave on his bicycle sees them go in the building. He rides through a yellow light, and cars stop. He sees his father, and the car he is driving stalls. He tries to explain it to the customer.
      In the bedroom Ray tells Evelyn that he should have hit him while he had the chance. Then he would be dead, and he would have no more worries. She says she will talk to him. She will tell him that he has to get a job or go to college. Ray does not want him to thumb his diploma at him. She says he never thumbed anything at anybody, and he says that is because he never went to college. Dave is in bed with a magazine and hears this. Ray says he is probably too stupid to get in. She warns he will hear him. Ray says he does not care, and it is his house. Besides he does not speak English. She says he will find a job somewhere, but Ray says he could not find a job to save his life. He says he dies of shame every time he sees him and calls him a lazy free-loader.
      Ray drives his car to the stone-cutting factory and talks to the older men he knows. He goes inside and says he could pick up where he left off. Ray picks up a hammer and asks if he can try it. He takes off his jacket and climbs up and pounds stone nails in.
      At night Ray is walking with Evelyn on the street and asks her who would ever hire their Italian bum. She asks if he would give him a job. He admits selling used cars is good enough for him; but he believes he would ruin him if he hired him.
      Dave is washing a car, and Ray tells him no whistling; he is supposed to shag. Later Dave coils the hose. His father tells him it is time to go home; but Dave says he has to train because the Italian race is next week.
      Dave rides his bicycle at night.
      Dave works in the used car lot keeping the cars clean. He sees Mike drive by with Cyril and Moocher. In the rain Dave trains on a stationary bicycle in the rain.
      Dave in the office asks Ray if he can have Saturday off for the Italian bike race. Ray sees a man returning a car that is pushed by three other guys. The man says he gave them his word that this car was guaranteed, but Ray denies it and tries to push the car back. Dave says they are poor but honest; if he gave his word, they have to give him his money back. The man says he only wants a refund. Ray keeps shouting “Refund” and asks if he is crazy.
      Ray is in bed and shouts “Refund” as a doctor is examining him. In another room Dave says he ruined everything. His mother says he needed a rest anyway and that now he is getting it. Dave says he will not go to the race so that he will be there when his papa wakes up. She looks at him and asks if she ever showed him her passport which she says are cheap now. She carries it in case she needs identification to cash a check. He hugs her, and she says he should go and come home with a trophy. He should do those things while he can. He says he will win this one for her.
      Many bicyclers have gathered at the starting line of the Cinzano 100 race. They start on a four-lane highway. Four Italians are leading. Dave is passing others, and the four Italians develop a longer lead. Dave has moved up to fifth and chases them. He pulls even and speaks in Italian to them. They wave him on, and he thanks them. An Italian moves a gear switch on Dave’s bike, and he falls back but he comes back even with them. An Italian puts a medal rod into Dave’s front wheel, causing him to fall off his damaged bicycle.
      Mike in his car tells Dave he is a cutter again. Moocher says they still have the 500 and gets out of the car, thanking them for the ride.
      Ray tells his wife he feels he is lucky he is not dead. Dave comes in and asks his dad how he feels. Ray says he had nightmares all night that everyone he ever sold a car to came in to ask for a refund and that Dave was there handing out the checks. Dave says he is sorry he gave him back his money. He says everyone cheats, but he just didn’t know it. Ray says that now he knows. He asks where his trophy is. Dave cries and hugs his father who asks what is the matter and if he lost his wallet. He says he did not want him to be this miserable, just a little miserable. He pats him on the back and tells Evelyn to talk to him.
      Dave meets Katherine on campus and calls her “Kathy.” She asks what happened to his Italian things and says he looks like everybody else. She wants him to call her “Katarina,” but he says he feels terrible. She asks him a question in Italian, and he admits his name is Dave Stoller and that he made up all that Italian stuff. She tells him to stop kidding around, and he says he isn’t. He says he is a cutter. She asks about Napoli and the big family. She says he fooled her. She cries, slaps him, and walks off.
      Ray sees Dave in his room removing his Italian posters.
      At night Ray shows Dave a building for which he helped cut the stone. He says he loved doing it and was proud of his work. He says the buildings went up; but when they were finished, it was like they were too good for them. He says it felt uncomfortable. He says he would like to stroll through the campus, but he feels out of place. He asks if they still swim in the quarries. He says the only thing they got for his twenty years of work are the holes they left behind. Dave says he does not mind, but Rays says he does. Dave says that he and Cyril took the college exam and that one of them passed. Dave says he does not want to go to college because he is proud of being a cutter. Ray says he is not a cutter; his father is a cutter. Dave admits he is a little afraid. He says there are the rest of the guys. Dave admits he did all right on the exam, and Ray says that is good. He says his mom will be expecting them home.
      On a porch Dave asks Cyril, Mike, and Moocher if he is supposed to ride that bicycle they gave them. Mike says it is the official issue and that he can’t add or change anything. Dave says it is a piece of junk. Cyril says it has personality, and Moocher says it looks all right to him. Dave says he does not have to ride it, and Moocher says Dave does not have to ride it either. They will not beg him, but Cyril says they will plead. Mike picks up the bike and says they might as well take it back. Dave asks him if he thinks they can’t win anymore. Mike says maybe those guys are better. Dave says that could be but that he never heard him say that before. Mike says it is the first time he ever felt that. Dave says all right and takes the bike.
      Dave is working on the bike at night, taking it apart and cleaning it. He adjusts the spokes on the wheels.
      Dave comes out of the garage on the bike.
      At the stadium Dave practices riding the bike.
      Dave comes out of a fast-food place and sits on the curb. Katherine says hello, and he stands up. She says she is leaving because she got a job in Chicago. He says Moocher’s dad got a job there. She is going to Italy with her parents, and he says that is great. He wishes her a nice trip, and she does the same for him. He says he is not going anywhere, but she says she is not so sure of that. She smiles and walks away.
      At the dinner table Ray asks Moocher why he is so small when he eats so much. Moocher says it is his metabolism which eats five times a day. Ray says he is going back to work tomorrow, and Dave asks if he is not coming to the race. Ray says they may have to feed another metabolism because his wife is going to have another baby. Dave is happy, and his mother smiles. Moocher says he did not know that people their age—. Ray interrupts and says his next word may be his last. Ray admits he is happy and asks if he had a choice. Evelyn says Ray was going to give them a pep talk. Ray says they don’t need pep; he needs pep. He tells her to give it to them, and she shows them the white T-shirts with “CUTTERS” on them.
      Bicycles are lying on the track during the National Anthem as people sing. Evelyn arrives with a chair. A man announces the flags that start the race, the warning flag to make them slow down for an accident, and the checkered flag for the end. The race is 200 laps or fifty miles with 33 four-man teams. Any team members may exchange the bicycle whenever they wish. On one lap a car leads a slow pace, and then the race starts.
      Dave is riding for the Cutters and is in the middle of the pack, but he moves up.
      At the used car lot Ray is sitting in a car eating while he listens to the race on the radio.
      Some teams exchange the bicycle, and Dave takes the lead.
      Ray gets excited, starts his car, and drives off.
      Dave bumps into another bike that was a lap behind him. He is injured but gets up and rides on. He gives the signal and comes in for an exchange. Moocher tells someone to get on the bike and finally gets on himself. The Cutters are no longer in the lead. Moocher falls back into third place. Ray arrives and finds Evelyn. Moocher comes in and does a good exchange to Cyril; but others pass him up. Mike says it is all over. A nurse is wrapping Dave’s knee with a bandage. The leading team has gone 170 laps. Mike takes the bicycle, and his brother cheers him on. Mike passes some others and moves up to fourth place. Dave sees that his father is there and stands up. He yells at Mike to bring it in. Mike drops the bicycle. Dave gets on the bike, and they tie his foot to the pedal. With 15 laps to go the Cutters are in fifth position. Dave moves up. The fraternity is still leading, and Dave moves up to second place. On the last lap he is two lengths behind, but Dave takes the inside on the last curve and wins the race. The Cutters celebrate, Dave with his father, Moocher with his wife Nancy, and Mike with his brother. The official announces that the Cutters won, and he presents the large trophy to Dave.
      At the used car lot Ray is riding a bicycle.
      On campus Dave meets a French student. They ride on bicycles, and he says he is thinking of taking French. He asks if she knows the Tour de France. His father sees them riding, and Dave says, “Bon jour.”
      This comedy depicts young men in a transitional time of life between the worlds of school and work. These high school graduates have to deal with feelings of envy and inferiority toward the college students while clinging to their strong friendships which often fade as individuals find work and marry. The attitudes of the American father toward his son’s latest phase provide considerable humor and entertainment while the son gets emotional support from his mother.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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