THE CLIMB is an American comedy screened as part of the Un Certain Regard selection of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, and centres on the at times toxic bromance between Mike (played by director and co-writer Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (played by co-writer and co-producer Kyle Marvin). The film begins with the titular climb: a cycle ride in the south of France, framed initially as a bonding opportunity for the pair before Kyle’s wedding. However, Mike soon reveals that he is having an affair with the bride-to-be (Judith Godrèche). Establishing the tone of what will follow, the film plays this setup for laughs, as Mike, the fitter of the two, elects to tell Kyle about the affair right as they begin the ascent, ensuring that Kyle isn’t able to catch him. The scene ends with Mike being punched in the face by a Citroen-driving Frenchman, before eventually making out with/taking off with Kyle’s bride for good.
“While the film operates in a vein of awkward white guy comedy similar to THE OFFICE or STEP BROTHERS, THE CLIMB counterbalances this awkwardness with a heavily French chanson driven soundtrack that infuses a sense of pathos and weightiness to Kyle and Mike’s distinctly average emotional lives.”
The film is structured elliptically as a series of seven vignettes that chart the pair’s on/off friendship across several years and several dramatic reversals of fortune. The focus rests on family and major life events, including two weddings, one birth, one divorce, and one funeral — although not in that order. However, it is in its attention to the more mundane aspects of the characters’ lives where the film really develops its comedic potential. The Christmas and Thanksgiving scenes are both familiar and funny because of how carefully attuned they are to the details and atmosphere of family dynamics, with aspects of mise-en-scene, dialogue, and performance capturing the full absurdity of intergenerational gatherings. Scenes with Kyle’s grandmother (Sondra James), though peripheral, in particular, are perfectly-pitched, leading to some of the film’s most authentically funny moments. Similarly, the wedding scene toward the end is laugh-out-loud amusing, with a dramatic ‘I object!’ moment, and a resolution that is original and genuinely unexpected.
While the film operates in a vein of awkward white guy comedy similar to THE OFFICE or STEP BROTHERS, THE CLIMB counterbalances this awkwardness with a heavily French chanson driven soundtrack that infuses a sense of pathos and weightiness to Kyle and Mike’s distinctly average emotional lives. There are also moments of visual flair, including a few circular continuous takes and travelling shots that seamlessly transition between different segments. The film neatly concludes with Mike and Kyle back on their saddles together, and while the ending holds back from fully resolving their differences, it suggests that—in bromance as in life—the struggle for maturity is a matter of getting back on your bike.