Dave in Breaking Away
- Shot of quarry, hear four teen boys proudly singing: “When I die, won’t you bury me / In the parking lot of the A&P!” Dave responds, “Bravo! Bellisima!”. Four friends walking to their swimming hole (which used to be a quarry that employed their dads.) Dave carries a trophy from a bicycle race he’s just won. Dave’s friends ask him if he’s really going to shave his legs to become a better racer. He responds positively in Italian.
- At the swimming hole, one friend points out that this is the first time that nobody’s going ask them to write a “theme” about what they did that summer. They got a lot of rights at age 18, but, “What the hell do you get to do when you’re 19?” “You leave home.” “My dad said that Jesus never moved more than 50 miles from his home.” “Yeah, and look what happened to him.” Dave won’t swim with them because an Italian coach said not to swim after a race.
- Dave rides through his neighborhood with his trophy, singing an Italian opera.
- Dave’s mom gives his dad a small serving of food. “This is it?” She says, “you’ve got a bad heart.” He says that it’s because of their son. “We gave him a year off to hang out with those bums, now he thinks he’s an I-Tie. I wanted him to go to college, but then, why should he, I worked in quarry.” “Most of the quarries are closed.” “There are no jobs but let him come home tired from looking. He’s never tired! He’s never miserable!” Mom says, “He says Italian families stay together. He thinks we should have another child.”
- Dave comes home, says Italians racers are coming soon. Mom shows off trophy to dad. “So what, I lived fifty years, I never got a trophy.” So Dave gives the trophy to his dad and heads to his room.
- Dave puts on an Italian opera. Dad goes to yell at him. Comes back disturbed: their son is shaving his legs.
- [Because this is an ensemble movie, we then cut to scenes about another one of the friends, then back to…]
- Dave’s dad’s used car lot. He lies immediately: “Gets 30 miles to a gallon. Of course the milage you get may vary.” Dave bicycles by and calls out “Bongiorno, Papa!” His dad asks an employee, “Friend of yours?” (Foreshadowing his later denial of his son).
- The four boys sun on a rock in the quarry. One asks, “Aren’t you glad we got fired from the A&P?” The others point out that he got fired and they all quit in solidarity. They add, “You know there aren’t many places that will hire all four of us.” “You know what I’d like to be? Smart.” One talks about how his parents moved to Chicago looking for work. Dave responds, “You can come live with me. In Italy everybody lives together.” They point out that that ever since Dave won that Italian bike, he’s been acting strange.
- College kids arrive to swim. “What the hell are they doing here?” College kids make daring dives that the poor kids can’t do, then taunt them with, “Hey cutters!” “Let’s get out of here, if they’re gonna come here then we’re gonna go on the campus.”
- They drive through campus, shirtless. “Going to college must do something to girl’s tits, I swear.” “Sure look like they got it made.” “That’s because they’re rich.” Dave points out, “In Italy they’re poor but happy.” They drive over a Frisbee thrown by a pretty girl and laugh.
- They watch the college football game from a hill nearby. “Every year there’s gonna be a new star football player, and it’s never going to be me. They’ll keep calling us cutter. To them it’s just a dirty work. To me it’s just something else I never got a chance to be.”
- Dave bicycles through campus and sees the girl whose Frisbee got run over. She hops on a Vespa but drops her notebook and doesn’t notice. Dave grabs the notebook and bicycles after her, all the way across campus, to catch up.
- He catches up to her, returns the notebook, and pretends to be Italian. She asks if he’s an exchange student, he says he is. He considers asking her out, but he’s too shy, for now…
Analysis: This is a good example of an ensemble movie that’s not really an ensemble movie. Of the four teens, three get their own storylines (Dennis Christopher as Dave, Dennis Quaid and Jackie Earl Haley. Daniel Stern’s character doesn’t arc because he’s already made his peace with his lot in life) But the moviemakers don’t start to cut away to Haley and Quaid’s storylines until after they’ve firmly established our identification with Dave.