The Climb (2020)
Directed by: Michael Angelo Covino
Premise: Longtime friends Michael and Kyle (Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin) become estranged when Michael admits to sleeping with Kyle’s fiancé. A few years later the two men try to repair their friendship but fall back into self-destructive patterns.
What Works: The Climb is fundamentally a buddy comedy but it is presented in a fresh manner and the humor is infused with melancholy. Michael and Kyle are old friends and when one of them nears marriage the other man sabotages the wedding plans. The scenario hints at something deeper about Michael and Kyle’s relationship but the film never spells it out, instead letting the audience figure it out. This is a terrifically structured story that reuses similar images and scenarios but puts a different twist on them so that the evolution feels gradual; the filmmakers use parallelism in a way that isn’t forced or hokey but gives The Climb a symmetry that makes the end of the story a satisfying conclusion. The Climb is very funny although in a melancholic and sometimes cringy way. Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin are terrific in the lead roles. They are convincing as two guys who have been friends for a long time and they gauge their performances precisely, marrying comedy with tragedy but without undercutting the emotional truth of their scenes. The banter between them is funny and Covino and Marvin have great comic timing. Comedies aren’t often renowned for their cinematic qualities but The Climb is exceptionally well crafted. That’s evident right from the beginning. The opening scene of The Climb is extraordinary. It’s not flashy or bombastic but keen viewers will recognize the way in which the filmmakers manage the action and the placement of the characters in the frame. Other scenes have similar craftsmanship, such as a party scene in which the camera follows characters into the house and then navigates around the building, tracking the action. The cinematic choices are aligned with what’s happening with the story and the characters and everything in The Climb comes together in a way that is clear but without overstatement.
What Doesn’t: The one weak spot of The Climb is the one-dimensionality of the female characters especially Marissa, Kyle’s fiancé, played by Gayle Rankin. The actress is good in the role and she does what the script requires of her but Marissa doesn’t have the depth of Kyle or Michael. She often just comes across as a shrew. Had Marissa been given more nuance it might have made the love triangle and the characters’ choices more interesting.
DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted scenes, and the original short film.
Bottom Line: The Climb is fundamentally a buddy comedy but it transcends that genre. The film is exceptionally well made and gets laughs while also revealing complexities about masculinity and friendship.
Episode: #840 (February 21, 2021)