New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: The Climb

Who else but your best friend knows how to hurt you the most? It’s just the beginning of this well-crafted, anti-buddy, buddy movie. Director Michael Angelo Covino with co-writer with Kyle Marvin, bring their real life chemistry with laughs and pathos to the screen. This film began as a short that was premiered at Sundance in 2018. And they returned to the festival this year with the feature. 

You’ll be engaged from the opening 7-minute continuous shot of the two riding up a mountain on bikes in France talking about Kyle’s impending wedding. A  piece of information Mike offers casually jump starts a conflict that tears their relationship apart. And it continues with the decisions they both make from then on. Much of what they do to each other in this toxic relationship is painful, but a lot of it is very funny and real. 

This film certainly earns its title with this memorable piece of filmmaking from the get go. In our interview at Sundance, Covino and Marvin told us they did 26 takes of  that first scene of The Climb. It’s impressive, not only for the acting and physicality, but for the cinematography by Zach Kuperstein. Covino and Marvin show their adept conceptualizing with subsequent well-planned out long follow shot scenes.

The script’s structure is also deliberate. They use weird and slightly wacky musical interludes over chapter headings to signify mileposts in the story. And the performers in these musical interludes, although somewhat head-scratching, are very entertaining. 

As more characters enter the picture, you learn about how much history they have and how close they really are. Kyle ends up marrying his high school classmate, Marissa, (Gayle Rankin- GLOW) who his family never liked and just tolerates. Though not a bad person, she is caustic and controlling. She and Mike don’t like each other either. She’s the strong female presence in this film who doesn’t take crap from either one of them. 

Despite Kyle’s misgivings, his parent’s (Talia Balsam and George Wendt)  invite Mike to his family’s Christmas get-together at their home. Another  long and very well-choreographed scene is shot from outside Kyle’s parents’ place. It’s a long pan around the outside of their home looking inside, trucking from room to room as the characters engage in conversations. the audio comes and goes so you can clearly hear what they’re saying. It reveals a lot about the dynamic of Kyle’s family. 

The scene where Kyle’s Mom levels with Mike about his abhorrent behavior with his best friend over the years is gut wrenching showing she really cares about his welfare. But then, Mike continues his self-destructive behavior ending with a spectacular crash-and-burn in the family room. This is one of many painfully comical moments. 

The storyline is played out over a number of years showing how these two friends, showing no matter what terrible things they do and say to each other, they always find their way back. The refreshing aspect of the script is that neither Covina nor Martin allow their characters any vanity. These are flawed people who need each other despite all the pain they inflict. 

We’re looking forward to seeing more from these innovative filmmakers.  We potentially see them as a creative force not unlike The Coen Brothers with a pinch of Apatow thrown in. Despite the frustration of watching their characters continue to emotionally beat each other up, Covino and Marvin hit on a way for us to still like these guys and this movie. The point being, you always hurt the one you love. 

Sony Pictures Classics               1 hour 34 minutes                 R    

Theatrical release scheduled for July 17, 2020

from Movies and Shakers

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