Combustible Celluloid
With: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Judith Godrèche, Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn, Jason Baxter.
Written by: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin
Directed by: Michael Angelo Covino
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, some nudity and brief drug use
Running Time: 98
Date: 11/13/2020

The Climb (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bitter Friends

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two real-life best pals explore the dark side of friendship with The Climb, an impressively cinematic feature filmmaking debut that deftly combines loony humor with deeply-ingrained human fears and anxiety.

Old friends Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) are cycling in Europe. The dumpy, nice-guy Kyle is about to be married, but the more athletic Mike admits that he has slept with — and is still sleeping with — Kyle's fiancee. The friends next see each other at her funeral; Mike married her instead, and he's now a grieving widower.

Mike is invited to Christmas with Kyle's family, where he shows just how down-and-out he is, and he learns that Kyle is engaged again, to Marissa (Gayle Rankin). Marissa and Kyle take Mike skiing, which turns out badly, as Mike tries his best to break up the couple. Years pass and things come more or less full circle as the men try to make their friendship work once more.

Written by both Covino and Marvin and directed by Covino, The Climb begins with an amazing long-take sequence featuring both men on bikes, marrying the emotional content of their dialogue with the physical environment around them, all in what appears to be a single, seamless take. Things continue with another single take, an acrobatic Thanksgiving sequence, which segueways flawlessly into a Christmas sequence.

Each of the seven sequences play like little episodes, and the span of time between each is uncertain; the men gain and lose weight and their facial hair changes. But sometimes weird humor kicks in, such as the surprising number of clumsy little brawls, with grappling and grunting and kicking.

Sometimes The Climb takes a break from reality, as when four men in a graveyard break the fourth wall and sing "I Shall Not Be Moved" in beautiful harmony. But mostly, the movie is about the slow, terrible balance between trust and betrayal, and about how even platonic love can be toxic (it's the opposite of a "bromance").

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