Film review: The Climb

The Climb

The Climb - Credit: Archant

This American buddy comedy with European arthouse sensibilities starts at the peak and goes gently downhill but is the start of a promising double act from Covino and Marvin

The Climb has an outstanding opening scene: a nine minute shot of two American friends cycling in France, during which Michael (Covino) tells Kyle (Marvin) that he slept with his fiance.

It’s funny and different; technically daring but the tricksiness of the filmmaking isn’t just showing off what they learnt in film school; it deepens the humour and perfectly introduces the dynamics of the friendship.

From there, Covino and Marvin’s film (the pair wrote the script) follows the ups and downs of their relationship over the next decade.

And it does all this in 13 scenes. Not all are done in single takes but, even allowing for hidden edits, there may be less than 20 shots in the whole film.

That’s a form suited to a black and white eastern European drama, not an American buddy movie.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. Which is probably why comedy films are rarely showy or formally ambitious. The meathead choreography needed to shape a fluid action sequence must be enormously challenging, but if you get everybody into the correct place at the correct time all they have to do is pull a trigger or reel back after the blood spurts out of the squib hidden beneath their white vest.

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In a comedy, the performers have so many challenges connected with timing and delivery that getting them to do it while hitting marks and coordinating with complicated camera moves is an unnecessary headache.

The film’s problem is that this Climb starts at its peak and moves downhill from there. Not drastically but the opening scene and one that follows at a funeral are inspired. They raise expectations that this is the emergence of an American equivalent of Ruben Ostland (The Square, Force Majeure) and what follows can’t quite match up.

At times you wonder if these long elaborate takes are actually distracting rather than enhancing the content of the scenes. Which is a shame because successfully setting a boisterous American comic sensibility loose in a European arthouse format would be a glorious thing.

But what we’ve got here is special enough. And Norm from Cheers is in it!

Go to for a review of the Criterion Collection release of David Lynch’s first film Eraserhead.