Note: The author of this review watched The climb on a digital screen from your home. Before you make the decision to see it – or any other movie – in a movie theater, please consider the health risks involved. here is a meeting on the matter with scientific experts.
On a scenic French asphalt road, American friends Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) gasp on a bike ride that has just hit its toughest stretch. Kyle is going to marry the love of his life. Mike is his witness. The two have known each other since childhood and their jokes are easy and jovial. Or that’s until Mike casually drops a bombshell: he’s sleeping with the bride-to-be – and has been on and off since Kyle met her. “If I catch you, I’ll kill you,” Kyle blurted out. Mike’s response: “Yes, that’s why I waited for the hill. “
To the pantheon of extensive and painstakingly choreographed shots, we can now add this thunderous scabrous piece, the nine-minute opening sequence of The climb. The film captures Mike’s confession and its immediate fallout in one curvy take; what we’re watching is a friendship imploding in real time. This is the rare and special case where keeping the camera moving really benefits the material: like Kyle and Mike, we are trapped in a glove of discomfort, not spared by the artificial delivery of a cut. Plus, it’s just funnier, watching the actors navigate an emotional minefield while literally navigating the meanders and traffic of a long road, delivering lines through gasps for air.
The scene could work perfectly as a standalone short – and indeed, it’s how it started. Marvin and Covino are real buddies and also the filmmakers; the latter directed The climb from a script they wrote together. They expanded their unique, standalone version of the story into a full-length feature film by asking where these characters might go and how their lives might change after this fateful adventure. And in doing so, the two made an ambitious, biting, and often surprisingly funny, comedy about the difficult attempt to mend a friendship after one party shatters it with betrayal.
The climb unfolds as a series of perfectly delineated and extremely awkward vignettes: uninspired sitcom episodes, each one moving audiences forward in time, with changes in the appearance of characters marking their passage. (At one point, they seem to change body types, with Mike picking up the extra weight Kyle lost.) The zigzag course of the story can be as unpredictable as that of life; it is a film that opens with the implicit annulment of a marriage, then immediately moves on to a funeral. The film’s anchor point is the messy relationship at its center and the well-defined personalities. Marvin plays Kyle as a mensch pushover – a true one-man golden retriever, so forgiving, loyal, and lovable that everyone in his life treads on him. Mike, on the other hand, is a distinct kind of asshole: Covino, who has a bit of the look and mood of a young Oscar Isaac, voices the internal wrestling match of a selfish person trying to rebuild himself into something. best thing with faulty tools.
The film’s comic sensibility is unique, perhaps even new. it is nuanced and large, anchored in emotional reality but always ready for flights of musical fantasy and explosions of sudden and burlesque violence. (Mike, damaging in several ways, destroys not only houses but also their tables and dishes; he also has a rather symmetrical habit of getting his ass kicked by strangers.) Covino stages several of the film’s low-key storylines. the same way he does. the opening one: via long, uninterrupted shots, including a Christmas sequence that captures multiple conversations with a Steadicam prowling around the perimeter of the house like Michael Myers. Some of those choices seem more motivated than others – it’s the kind of business card debut that sometimes, with its bravery flourishes, betrays a director who has something to prove. At the same time, so many American comedies are directed so indifferently that it’s mostly refreshing to meet one that makes the camera a co-conspirator in its insane fun, punching the dialogue scenes and prolonging the tension.
Over the years, the two men enter and leave each other’s lives. The survival of their bond eventually becomes tied to Kyle reconnecting with his high school girlfriend, Marissa, played by Shineby Gayle Rankin. Mike, like everyone in Kyle’s family, thinks she’s a bad fit for her friend, and this becomes the fuel for his misguided crusade for redemption – a romantic, unhappy but utterly heartfelt sort of suicide sabotage mission. . Is it possible to do something wrong for the right reason? The climb doesn’t take sides in that kind of love triangle – in part because Rankin, in a superbly acerbic performance, makes Marissa too fun in her frankness and sympathetic in her exasperation to deserve our disdain. Whether she’s right about Kyle remains an open question, throughout a final bittersweet stretch that subverts any expectations as to where these flawed people might end up.
Either way, the biggest mystery might be whether Mike is good for Kyle. Can he change? Can anyone? The climb never denies that their friendship is dysfunctional and perhaps irreparably toxic: a collision of the unstoppable force of Mike’s pathological destructiveness and the immovable object of Kyle’s inability to walk away. Yet the film also believes in the true love the two men have for each other, to the point of flirting with the conclusion that someone can be an ugly friend and still be a person you want in your life. There are no sentimental answers or easy-to-bring up shortcuts in this unusually pungent buddy comedy. Like Kyle and Mike, it goes on pedal forward, in the hope that some kind of clarity could materialize at the top of the hill.