Blu-ray Review: Breaking Away - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The 1979 bicycling drama Breaking Away is available as a limited edition Blu-ray via boutique label Twilight Time. Nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and winner of one (Best Original Screenplay, Steve Tesich), this coming of age tale was a huge hit in its time. It even resulted in a TV series of the same name, with a few of the film’s cast members reprising their roles. And what a cast it is, including Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern as recent high school grads with no direction in their lives. Somewhat lesser known is the film’s primary star, Dennis Christopher.

Christopher plays Dave Stoller, a cycling enthusiast who’s positively obsessed with everything Italian. His parents, Evelyn (Barbara Barrie) and Ray (Paul Dooley), think he’s a bit crazy to be spouting off in Italian all the time. It gives Dave an interesting character quirk, played so endearingly by Christopher that it never comes off cloying. Tired of being marginalized in their Bloomington, Indiana surroundings, Dave and his buddies Mike (Quaid), Cyril (Stern), and Moocher (Haley) decide to participate in the Little 500 bike race. They call their team the “Cutters,” embracing the insulting term the rich kids use against those who primarily find employment cutting stone at the local quarry. They’re of course underdogs in the race, facing off against an experienced university team.

Breaking Away BD cover (214x280).jpgApparently there’s still considerable amount of good will towards this film, which factored as a high-ranking selection in the American Film Institute’s lists of most inspirational films and best sports films. It’s an undeniable crowd-pleaser and the quartet of young male stars delivers solid performances. But the whole affair comes across as more than bit slight. Some of the humor and side characters (including the Oscar-nominated Barrie) feel like they’re been ripped right out of the sitcoms of that era. It was a massive hit at the time, but now seems more like a curiosity piece best suited for fans of its better-known stars.

Matthew Leonetti’s cinematography is cleanly presented in this high definition transfer. The film has a warm, yellowed look that doesn’t offer the most sharply detailed imagery. This may simply have been inherent in the original cinematography. It’s a decent presentation that may not wow anyone, but isn’t liable to be disappointing either. Same goes for the DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono mix, which offers crystalline fidelity without being anything fancy. The isolated music track is in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo.

Twilight Time has included an excellent new commentary track featuring lead actor Dennis Christopher, joined by film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. There’s an audio-only piece, apparently an extension of the commentary track, in which Christopher recalls working with Federico Fellini on the legendary director’s 1972 film Roma. There are also a few trailers and one of Julie Kirgo’s worthwhile booklet essays.

For cycling fans in particular, Breaking Away might be a dream come true. Those interested should hit up Twilight Time’s exclusive distributor Screen Archives for a copy of this limited edition Blu-ray it sells out.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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