“The Climb” stars Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin as two lifelong friends, and glimpses into their lives over several year. Covino and Marvin also wrote the script, as Covino directs and Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, and Judith Godrèche also star.
I hadn’t heard much about this film until recently (it premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and May 2019 seems like a lifetime ago), but my friend described it as “’Sideways’ with bikes.” A decent endorsement (“Sideways” is one of the better films of the 2000s), and upon seeing “The Climb” I can attest that this blend of exaggerated farce and intimate human interactions, while not as good as “Sideways,” is part of the Two Best Friends Argue Over Women & Wine Cinematic Universe.
Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin are real-life best friends, and that connection is felt on-screen. Both of their characters go through waves of being the rock in the relationship, and even when one should hate the other their mutual admiration shines through. Covino is a bit better and more believable with his comedic timing than Marvin, but thanks to the script the two penned together there are a lot of deadpan chuckles to go around.
More impressive than the performances is the cinematography by Zach Kuperstein. The film is told in vignettes, each lasting about 10 minutes or so, and they are almost exclusively done in one long take. Sometimes the scenes feature characters moving through a house or riding bikes along twisting roads, which makes it all the more impressive from a technical perspective, but it also makes you appreciate the work being done by the actors, too. Much like in “Birdman” the pressure is on them to get their lines right, or risk having to start a 10-minute-long scene over from scratch. It helps create a sense of authenticity to the story and each scene, and as a fan of oners I never felt like it reached the levels of simply being a gimmick.
There are a few abstract and fourth wall-breaking moments that may be awkward for some viewers, and the simple storytelling may not gel for everyone. But just like “Nomadland” I think sometimes simple direction is the best way to handle a film, and “The Climb” gets enough laughs and heart out of its two characters to be worth the trip.
Critics Rating: 8/10