By John Saeger
The Climb is almost the brilliant indie movie everyone will be talking about this year. It has the trappings of a film that people would flock to the artsier movie houses to see (if they could make it to theaters in 2020). The film is funny and shot in engrossing fashion, but there are some holes that keep the movie from being the classic comedy that it nearly is.
The Climb stars newcomers Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin (both wrote the movie, which was also directed by Covino). The actors portray lifelong buddies whose characters share their real-life names. Mike is the worst friend. He not only sleeps with more than one of Kyle’s fiancees, but also falls deep into a hole of substance abuse that has toxic effects on those around him without redemption.
Supporting the pair in The Climb are Gayle Rankin (GLOW, Perry Mason) and George Wendt (Cheers). Their characters are among a few underdeveloped aspects of the script that deserve a little bit more exploration.
Despite a series of misdeeds, the audience is never really shown why Kyle sticks with a buddy who essentially ruins his life twice. Kyle is either the nicest guy or the biggest sap in the world. Key plot points like his disintegrating marriage are never fleshed out. Secondary actors like Rankin and Wentz are introduced with the potential to provide some meaningful plot outcome or guidance, but that element never really comes to fruition.
While The Climb is the appropriate length for an indie comedy, a punched-up plot might have established why their friendship endures. The script is not unlike a TV series that understands how to keep you tuning in every week, but never knows how to wrap the finale. Many scenes with Covino and Marvin are wonderful, although much of the rest of the film lacks the same care and development that would have tied everything together.
Cinematographer Zach Kuperstein deserves plaudits for using dynamic camerawork to move the story along. Single-shot scenes and well-placed angles allow The Climb to be an example of how cinematography positively effects the final product. Kuperstein’s work allows the film to come off as more than ordinary and distracts from gaps in Covino and Marvin’s writing.
The Climb is worth a watch if you are looking for some well-crafted chuckles. Even though their film falls a little short of a complete story, Covino and Marvin have comedy chops as an acting duo. The movie has its moments and serves as a reminder that friendship can survive rocky moments. It just doesn’t say why.
About the Author: John Saeger is a music and film writer from Philadelphia. Since 2017 he has been writing his pop-culture blog Long After Dark, a site dedicated to the arts in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond. email/Twitter