In Michael Angelo Covinos feature film debut, friendship carries more than seems possible.
Friends are a popular subject in films. Especially in comedies. Friendship is fundamentally different from kinship in that the relationship is entered into voluntarily. Friendships have an inner lightness that makes them fragile on the other hand. As in love, you have to prove your friendship to each other and you can put it at risk.
In the comedy “The Climb” there is a friend in the character of Mike who is a bit reminiscent of a curse. Mike says it himself at some point in the film: “I know that I’m an asshole.” He doesn’t speak the sentence defiantly self-confidently, but as an admission of an unpleasant situation that he has to deal with just like the others. It is certainly difficult to bear.
Michael Angelo Covino makes this very clear from the first scene in his directorial debut “The Climb”. Covino plays Mike in it and he also wrote the script with his second lead actor, Kyle Marvin, in the role of Mike’s friend Kyle.
The story, which both present on screen, begins casually in the French mountains. Mike and Kyle ride their racing bikes up a rarely used country road, Mike gives Kyle advice on how to better use his strength. And then, when he has gained a little lead over Kyle, he half mumbled to himself: “Kyle, I slept with Ava.” Ava is Kyle’s fiancée, the wedding is imminent, as the course of the conversation up to then showed.
Much is different after the confession. Among other things, Mike and Kyle’s friendship has to take a forced break. This break is not shown as such in the film, as much of the plot, which is divided into seven chapters, is generously left out. At the beginning of each new chapter you have to take a brief look at the current situation to see what has happened in the meantime. So much can be revealed: Mike and Kyle are not over for good, but the dent in their relationship will determine further events from now on.
Michael Angelo Covino lets the action take place in an unspecified present. Cell phones are in use, but it is not entirely clear whether they are also smartphones. The pictures are grainy, seem nostalgic, just like Mike and Kyle deal a lot with their past. For example, Kyle, who incidentally finds it very difficult to say no to others, meets his new girlfriend Marissa (Gayle Rankin) in a scene in the basement of his parents’ house, where he is surrounded by old toys that he still uses seems to have an affective relationship.
“The Climb” is an unobtrusively great comedy, especially because it creates comic sparks from existential, often tragic turns of phrase that don’t seem worn out. In addition to separations, there is a funeral in this film, Mike develops a “drinkin’ thing” in the course of the events, but this seriousness often turns into humor that sails hard along the slapstick without cannibalizing it.
For example, when Mike attends a Christmas party of Kyle’s family while drunk, staggers through the living room towards the Christmas tree and the scene ends shortly before its catastrophic climax.
Each chapter is organized around a long tracking shot, which gives the scenes something claustrophobically closed, but at the same time flaneur-like in their sustained movement. The camera cannot get away from the events and people, just as Mike and Kyle never really get away or want to break away from each other.
Covino and Marvin avoid clichés from more recent buddy comedies. The genital fixation, as in the films of Judd Apatow for example, ensures reliable laughter, is not found here. Although his characters often have a problem with growing up, Mike and Kyle have a lot of extra rough edges that make them look like more than characters that were just designed for a script.
What may have to do with the fact that Covino and Marvin are also friends in “real” life. Her characters are petty-bourgeois existences who, on a world scale, have small needs that lead to a big joke without anyone being shamelessly demonstrated.
In addition to the elegant optical style, there is also a wonderfully cheesy selected soundtrack, with nostalgic big band music by Martin Mabz and some stylishly placed chansons by Gilbert Bécaud. A feel-good movie that likes to hurt. At the end there is another bike tour with a different line-up. Who will be cycling this time will not be revealed.