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

Who but your best friend knows how to hurt you 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  premiered at Sundance in 2018. And they delivered this feature at Sundance 2020. 

You’ll be engaged from the opening 7-minute continuous shot of the two biking up a mountain 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 so much of it is also 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. 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  long follow shot sequences throughout the film.

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 unusual performers that perform in these musical interludes, although somewhat head-scratching, are very entertaining. 

As more characters enter the picture, you learn about how much history Mike and Kyle 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 barely 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 pan is shot along the windows, but from the outside looking in from room-to-room inside Kyle’s parents’ place. The audio clearly picks up what’s being said in the conversations as the camera moves from room to room. Kudos to this sound design that reveals a lot about the characters and the dynamic of Kyle’s family. 

There is a pivotal scene where Kyle’s Mom levels with Mike about his abhorrent behavior over the years towards his best friend. It is gut wrenching, but makes it evident that Kyle’s Mom really cares, not only about his their welfare, but their friendship. But then, Mike continues his same bad behavior ending with a spectacular crash-and-burn in the family room decorated for the holidays. He not only destroys the mood, but the room. This is one of many painfully comical moments Covino and Marvin create successfully. 

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, always find their way back together. 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 are looking forward to seeing more from these innovative filmmakers.  We think they have the potential to become a creative force not unlike The Coen Brothers with a pinch of Apatow thrown in. Despite the frustration of watching these buddies continue to beat each other up emotionally, Covino and Marvin have hit a way for us to still like these guys and this movie. As the saying goes, you always hurt the one you love. 

Sony Pictures Classics               1 hour 34 minutes                    R    

In select theaters now.

The post The Climb first appeared on Movies and Shakers.

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