The Climb is a clever sendup of toxic masculinity

Michael Angelo Covino’s assured debut looks at the years-long bromance between two codependent friends

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      The Climb

      Starring Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin. Rated 14A. Opens at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas on November 13

      The bromance comedy gets a fascinating new entry with The Climb, Michael Angelo Covino’s assured, funny, and irresistible pic about the codependent, years-long friendship between nice guy Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and trainwreck Michael (Covino).

      On the eve of his wedding in the south of France, Kyle learns from best man Michael that the latter has slept with his fiancée. This all happens while they’re cycling up a hill—yes, the title is a metaphor both for this gruelling climb and for the journey to adulthood. The friendship ends, but gradually Kyle lets Michael back into his life, only to cause more complications.

      The sharp and merciless script—co-written by real-life friends Covino and Marvin—is divided into seven vignettes spanning several years, each shaped like a satisfying short. I first saw the film at TIFF in 2019, and only on a repeat viewing did I notice little details that paid off a few scenes later. 

      Covino has great control over his material, delivering narrative surprises and impressive long takes. That opening scene includes one long eight-minute shot, and it’s beautifully bookended by a scene at the end that shows the legacy of toxic masculinity continuing. Covino is especially good at capturing party sequences, his camera roving outside a house during Christmas, for instance, capturing little bits of gossip, innuendo and embarrassments that are part of any big family gathering. (This film will make you long for the days of big gatherings.) 

      Covino also gets subtle, lived-in performances from his cast, which includes Mad Men’s Talia Balsam as Kyle’s controlling mom and Glow’s Gayle Rankin as his equally controlling girlfriend. The two leads have a believable rapport—Marvin as the friend who always goes along with the more spontaneous, unpredictable but charismatic Covino. Unfortunately, Cheers’ George Wendt, as Kyle’s burly dad, doesn’t get to do much—a shame in a film that’s largely about male confusion.

      One of Covino’s boldest choices is to include musical interludes, often at the end of a scene. When I first saw the film, I found these sequences distracting and unnecessary. But this time I found they provided a break from the emotional intensity of a moment. With their European flair, they also put the goings-on of these privileged white Americans in relief.