By Craig Joseph
My immediate thought after watching Breaking Away for the first time was, “I wonder how far Tim and I have come on this movie-watching journey we’ve started?” It’s not that the film didn’t engage me, but a little OCD part of me that’s always counting, calculating and tabulating – the part that figures probabilities, watching the odometer and clock on road trips – wondered if we were far enough along to start making some general observations. After all, one of the purposes behind watching each other’s favorite movies was to perhaps gain some insight into a long-distance friend.
So I can say this, right? “Coming of age movies sure loom large on Timothy’s list.”
Which is interesting, on one hand, because I know he hates transition, and all his favorite heroes (Dave, Largeman, Luke Skywalker, even the former addict-turned-goalie) are smack dab in the middle of it. One of the ironies of our friendship is that Tim’s cool, calm, collected exterior belies a psyche more tightly wound than a yoyo on crack where change is concerned. Meanwhile, I – with my hyper-scheduled, anal-retentive, overly-organized life – thrive, nonetheless, on new experiences. It’s nothing for me to quit a job, dump a friend, move to a new city, wear a new hair-do; I jones for novelty. Too much.
So why these flicks, Barlow? Maybe they’re instructive. Perhaps watching someone navigate a sea of change emboldens you to walk on shifting sands in real life. Could it be nostalgia? The post-college years seem to have been formative ones for you; do these movies remind you that you got through transition then and convince you that you can now? Or maybe it’s a “misery loves company” proposition: a character’s ennui legitimates your own.
I’m dangerously close to psychoanalysis here, so let me come to a point. What I enjoyed about the film was the way it captured the importance of place – for the transitionphobe and change addict alike. From Cyril’s early exclamation that a rock overlooking the quarry is precisely “where [he] lost all interest in life,” we’re clued into the fact that specific locales – that Bloomington itself – has formed these guys. The town gives Dave and his pals their dubious identity as townies and sons of rock cutters. It’s at least part of what has Mike feeling trapped in life, and probably has cocooned Cyril into a state of perpetual adolescence. On the flip side, though, it provides Moocher – in Nancy – with a compatriot in moving forward and doing something with his life. And it’s easy to argue that limpid small town mentalities and mores actually propel Dave’s flights of imagination toward all things Italian and bicycling. So far, in fact, that his dreams carry him past his father’s own obstinance, his failure with the girl, personal injury, and even disillusionment with the Italian cyclists. One could argue that Bloomington is the fifth member – the most influential one – of this little gang.
It seems that when confronted with the question of “where am I going?” we’d do well to also ask “where have I been?” and “where am I now?” because, whether we’re aware or not, our physical geography asserts an influence – maybe malign, maybe benevolent – and is, I think, at least partially responsible for how we respond to change that comes our way.
And for the record, where we’re at is 24 movies into the 60 on our list.
And yes, someone can point out that I’m obsessed with dysfunctional family films. Have at it. Home for the Holidays is coming up.