★★★★★ - FINANCIAL TIMES
- The Climb is the kind of character-based indie American comedy that is in sadly dwindling supply these days. It explores friendship, fidelity and the uphill struggle of growing up, and it’s an utterly hilarious humdinger. Much of this is down its to co-leads and co-writers, Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Covino (also making his directing debut), who play heightened versions of themselves that are faintly repellent yet strangely loveable. With a hangdog hipster look and a hoarse whisper, Covino comes over like a careworn Casey Affleck while Marvin, more dumpy and docile, resembles a junior John C. Reilly.
Fittingly enough for a film that at times exhibits a European sensibility, it begins in the hills of Provence Alps, where, during an uphill cycle climb, and on the eve of Kyle’s wedding, Mike makes a confession while distinctly lacking remorse. This best man is anything but. And he clearly has the upper hand over his old friend Kyle — for now at least.
The shambolic and alcoholic escapades that follow evoke memories of other boozy bromances such as Sideways and Withnail and I, while the retro stylings at times recall Wes Anderson, but The Climb develops an offbeat charm all its own as these two thirtysomethings weather ups and (mostly) downs. Some of the most egregious behaviour will no doubt elicit talk of “toxic masculinity”. But neither man here is truly toxic and nor is their relationship; they’re just everyday flawed individuals — and richer characters for it. And so are the female ones. In particular, Gayle Rankin plays a woman so empowered, she borders on weaponised, taking no nonsense and violently stealing several scenes.
One surprise is how cinematic the film is. Audacious camerawork takes us to places we don’t expect and long tracking shots make room for nice touches from a superb supporting cast that includes Talia Balsam, George Wendt of Cheers fame (Norm!) and stand-up comic Todd Barry. Often great gags are all but thrown away off-camera in favour of a shot that reveals more about character. Meanwhile, the eccentric soundtrack, which ranges from graveside barbershop quartet to stirring chansons, provides further unexpected delights.
What impresses most is that the laughs and bittersweet insights into rollercoaster relationships never flag — and that is what really elevates this comedy to greatness. It is full of witty lines but they all serve the film’s wry and often painful observations on how we hurt the ones we love and love the ones we should probably hate. Covino and Marvin are a double act to watch and savour.
- Raphael Abraham, FINANCIAL TIMES
(M, 98 mins) Directed by Michael Angelo Covino
The Climb is now playing at Light House Cinema!