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Review: Indie comedy 'The Climb' is an uphill battle

Debut feature from writer-director Michael Angelo Covino looks at two friends who maybe shouldn't be friends

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The inscrutable nature of male friendships is examined in "The Climb," a comedy about unlikable people that is, at times, unlikable itself. 

Real life BFFs Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin are Mike and Kyle, a pair of dudes that have been friends for so long that they're going to be friends forever. It doesn't matter that Mike continuously sleeps with Kyle's girlfriends, or that Mike's self-destructive nature perpetually threatens to drag them both down. They were friends so they are friends, and that's that. 

Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin in "The Climb."

And sometimes that's all there is to it, especially when it comes to guys. Mike and Kyle may not have much in common other than their age, but making new friends is hard, and often it's easier to just stay friends with the people whose traits and faults you already know. It's lazy, but sometimes lazy wins. 

Mike and Kyle's friendship unfolds over a number of years where they trade turns losing and gaining weight, embark on new relationships and so on. The more Kyle seemingly gets his life together, the more Mike falls apart. But there's an honesty and an understanding between them that strengthens their bond. 

Covino, in his feature-length writing and directing debut, handles this episodic indie comedy like he's making "Goodfellas." He favors long, complex tracking shots that distract from the characters and draw attention to the filmmaking technique. It feels showy and doesn't serve the material. 

His script is better, and owes a debt to the talky '90s indies or '00s mumblecore features. (Covino could be a third Duplass brother.) But "The Climb" often gets in its own way. Just like its characters don't know when enough is enough, neither does Covino. Which, in a way, is part of the point. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'The Climb'

GRADE: C+

Rated R: for language, sexual content, some nudity and brief drug use

Running time: 98 minutes

In theaters