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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this tale of redemption offers a lot in the way of scary, tense, and violent scenes. Although no one gets critically injured, there's lots of fighting. Some kids also may want to imitate the dangerous things characters do in this film: Dave doesn't wear a bike helmet, use a bicycle headlight at night, or wear reflective clothing, and he races in front of cars on a red light. During a bicycle race, a cyclist puts a bike pump in the spokes of Dave's wheel, causing him to crash. Dave races while injured. There's lots of punching and kicking; some blood is seen, but no one is seriously injured. Characters drive around a college campus and discuss women's breasts. Several swear words are used, including "s--t," "hell," "t-ts," "goddamn," "bastards," "son of a bitch," and "damnit." Characters also call others "retard," "p---y cop," and "s--thead."
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What's the story?
Dave (Dennis Christopher) and his friends have just graduated from high school. While his buddies amuse themselves by swimming in the rock quarry, Dave has bigger plans. Having won a racing bicycle, Dave has dedicated his life to learning to race it. He reveres the top racers on the Italian team from Cinzano so much he speaks in a cheesy Italian accent, listens to Italian music, and irritates his former stone-cutter father by calling him "Papa" instead of "Dad." While Dave's Italian act woos college girl Katherine, his dedication to his new identity isn't enough to get him noticed by the Cinzano team. Disillusioned -- with snobby, bullying college kids there to rub it in -- he feels like he has a lot to prove to get the respect he deserves.
Is it any good?
There are some wonderfully realistic touches to BREAKING AWAY. Anyone who's spent any time with teens knows they try on new identities like new outfits. But it's rare to see a film that shows a teen so deeply in the thrall of his latest obsession -- without it becoming something sinister or dangerous. Similar to the fact that there's no gratuitous sex or nudity in the film, Dave's love of cycling is innocent and pure. He's a character you can root for who still seems real. It makes this cycling movie much more than a good sports movie -- though it's that, as well. It's no surprise that Breaking Away won the Oscar for Best Writing and was nominated for four more, including Best Director and Best Picture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Dave felt the need to pretend to be someone he's not. Do you ever feel like doing that? When is that acceptable, and when could it be harmful?
What similarities and differences do you see between this film and other "coming-of-age" movies?
What are the differences between "Cutters" -- "townies" who grew up in the college town of Bloomington, Ind. -- and the college kids who live there to attend Indiana University?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.