Breaking Away ★★★½

Part coming-of-age story, part sports movie, Peter Yates' "Breaking Away" is a light-toned drama that weaves its parts into an effective whole. Following four friends as they prepare to leave their teenage years behind, the film is a resonant look early-adult allegiances and the subtle onslaught of impending maturity.

Taking place in Bloomington, Indiana, the film observes the four friends as they deal with their next steps in life. Jobs, women, and families are either obstacles or incentives for the young men to make moves in their adulthoods. All of this plays out against a tension between the local cutters, of which the friends are a part, and the college kids who will be in town for a short four years. The tension comes to a head in a local bicycle race, making that tension palpable and physical.

The story is familiar, but adding the bicycle race gives the character-focused plot some refreshing momentum. Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Dennis Christopher are well-cast as the four friends, each playing a distinctly drawn character. The dialogue is amusing and resonant, and Yates provides a strong focus on both character and available action. Where similar dramas can be still, Yates allows "Breaking Away" to have energetic, but character-based, forward motion.

Entertaining, lively, and emotionally low-key, "Breaking Away" is built on recognizable characters and recognizable drama. Fully engaging, the film benefits from its strong script and amusing characters. With a final act bike race giving its audience something for which it can cheer, "Breaking Away" makes for a solidly appealing experience.