November 16, 2020

SCREEN | A Buddy Comedy for the Ages – Take 'The Climb'

"He misses you."
Michael Angelo Covino Kyle Marvin | The Climb
Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media
Starring, written, and produced by real-life best friends Michael Angelo Covino (who also directs) and Kyle Marvin, The Climb is an indie comedy—expanded from their eight-minute short film—about a particularly tumultuous but enduring lifelong friendship between two middle-aged men set across several years of laughter, heartbreak, and betrayal. It's surprisingly ambitious, uproarious, and one of the most original American-made comedies in years.

Covino and Marvin, who also play characters also named Mike and Kyle, turn their relationship of profound connection into a richly humane and frequently hysterical movie about a toxic lack of boundaries in close friendships. You quickly get the feeling these guys have an endless well of material to mine together.

Split up over half-a-dozen chapters or extended scenes each jumping forward sometimes as much as years in time, The Climb employs a series of continuous long-takes to reveal its characters' deep history in a stage-like framing. Each chapter works as its own self-contained sitcom vignette zigzagging through their lives together while advancing their unlikely friendship.

Michael Angelo Covino Kyle Marvin | The Climb

Co-starring an equally game Gayle Rankin as Kyle's suffering but prickly new love after Mike confesses to sleeping with his previous fiancé right before their wedding in the nine-minute unbroken opening scene ambitiously set somewhere in the French mountainside while cycling, the staging of characters and sequences is superb in using extended shots to heighten the absurdist nature of the dark comedy.

When Mike and Kyle are together alone or with others, it becomes apparent they're stuck together and need each other as their opposing natures complement one another. How efficiently Covino and Marvin tell the entire history of a turbulent yet endearing friendship so economically over ninety-five tight minutes and a limited but diverse set of locations is truly impressive.

The Climb is such a special journey full of heartwarmingly destructive friendship dynamics. Covino and Marvin clearly have such a rich, personal connection that translates behind and in front of the camera in a hyper-real way. Its series of long single-takes only enhance the filmmaking instead of distracting or becoming gimmicky. Theirs is definitely a hill worth climbing.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Slashfilm

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