What would be a dealbreaker for you in a friendship? The Climb opens as two American friends pant and wheeze on bicycles on a mountainous stretch of French road. Kyle (Kyle Marvin), the goofy one who resembles a young John C. Reilly, is about to get married and is on one, final solo excursion with his best friend, Michael (Michael Angelo Covino). They wax, as one does in an indie movie, about life and friendship as they cycle. That is until Michael admits that he and Kyle’s fiancée have been screwing for years. Cue end of wedding.

You would think that confession would doom the friendship, though, right? Nope. Instead, The Climb chronicles what might be the most pathetically toxic male friendship of the year via a series of elliptical scenes that unfold as time progresses. But maybe art reflects life. Co-written by Marvin and Covino (who directed), The Climb compiles a series of awkward moments that can solicit both groans and uncomfortable chuckles as we watch the two men age and where their friendship goes as time elapses.

As the years pass, some things change (both Kyle and Michael gain and lose weight, people die) and some things stay the same (Kyle is a sad sack that continually allows Michael to sabotage his life). Maybe the commentary here isn’t that Michael is a self-loathing train wreck who needs to straighten out his shit but rather that Kyle needs to learn to stand up for himself. Either way, it can be downright harrowing to watch Michael mess things up for Kyle again and again, including sleeping with a different fiancée years down the line. Yet, somehow, they remain friends.

Covino and The Climb just feel like they are both trying too hard. There are lots of nifty set pieces filmed with Steadicam that feel like a new director trying to prove himself rather than organically fitting the scene. There are also inexplicable moments of awfulness, like Michael and a friend beating up and kidnapping Kyle as part of a bachelor party that ends with Kyle falling through some ice and nearly drowning. With friends like these, who needs enemies, right?

So what is The Climb trying to say? That toxicity is such an integral part of male friendships that we must accept its presence? Neither Kyle nor Michael is likable but you feel like that fact has eluded the filmmakers. Or they are trying hard to find something good in the poison. Either way, by the time we reach the saccharine ending, it is impossible to believe that these two guys could actually still like one another. And maybe I’m missing the point entirely. Maybe they don’t have to like each other. Maybe they need each other. If that’s true, Kyle and Michael deserve one another. If that’s true, The Climb doesn’t deserve an audience.

Summary
With friends like these, who needs enemies?
37 %
TOXIC NEEDS
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