‘The Climb’ opens on two friends cycling, one of them tells the other they are going to get married and the other friend admits to them that they slept with their fiancé. That would probably be enough to ruin any friendship, but not this one. In fact the same scenario happens again later in the film sans the cycling, and a key thing is admitted during that sexual interaction; Marissa (Gayle Rankin) asks Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) if he just wants to sleep with her so that way he can sabotage the wedding. It’s as if Mike wants to hold onto his relationship so badly with Kyle (Kyle Marvin) that he’ll do whatever is possible so that no one can get in the way of their comadre, even do things that would normally destroy any friendship. But maybe Mike just knows that Kyle doesn’t have enough backbone—as displayed in the scene where Marissa convinces Kyle to stand up to his mother—so Mike is aware that he can commit the worst of sins and Kyle will never abandon him. Oh and did I mention that this movie is a comedy?
We are definitely dealing with some darker material here, like Mike’s life falling apart and him turning into a full blown alcoholic. There are also some various life turns that end up happening to Kyle later on in the story. But despite these darker elements, I definitely laughed out loud multiple times at the absurdity and dead pan humor of it all, while the film somehow still maintains a sense of sweetness throughout it’s running time. A lot of that has to do with Kyle, who really is one of the best friends any one could ever ask for, he is the kind of friend who will stand by you through thick and thin. But it also has a lot to do with how Kyle Marvin plays Kyle, like this gentle giant that just wants to do the right thing, he has this look on his face where he can’t seem to understand why there is any hurt or pain out there in the world. And I don’t think that Michael is necessarily malicious in his actions, he’s just basically a self centered asshole, who’s got a lot of growing up to do.
The story is broken up into chapters with these talented musicians that sing a song at the end of each chapter, but because of the settings they are in and the fact that the musicians are playing it straight, it lends another layer of humor to the proceedings. During these chapters the scenes take place in what is to be perceived as one long seamless shot—kind of like how Birdman or 1917 were filmed, or mind you, the granddaddy of all one-take-scene-films, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’—but the keen eyes will spot an edit here and there. Though this style helps to lend the film a unique quality, as I can’t recall ever seeing a buddy comedy portrayed as such, it also works against it as it draws attention to itself in its showy nature. I must give kudos though to the gaffer and colorist for their contributions, the low lit cinematography adds an air of intimacy and the rich colors exude a striking starkness. I also must note that I saw the film at an Emagine Theaters (a Midwestern high-end movie chain) which were showing it in one of their EMAX theaters—their equivalent to IMAX—which gave the film a sense of awe in seeing such a film projected on such a large screen, which is normally reserved for the action blockbuster of the week.
This is the debut feature film from Michael Angelo Covino (I playfully hope that he has brothers named Leo Nardo, Dona Tello, & Raph Ael) who not only was one of the co-leads in the film but he also co-wrote and co-produced with his co-lead, co-writer, and fellow co-producer Kyle Marvin. They have been in the producing game for a number of years now and produced one of my favorite films of 2016, the criminally under seen ‘Hunter Gatherer’.