TWO AND A HALF STARS Two best friends remain friends despite the oddness of their coupledom, and one of them being a total jerk.
Michael Angelo Covino,Kyle Marvin
COMEDY DRAMA US #THECLIMB
Mike and Kyle have been best friends for longer than either care to remember. They hang out, a lot, and even take international cycling holidays together. Why is the pressing question. Kyle’s a genuinely nice guy; empathetic, caring and engaged yet Mike is emotionally stunted, an overgrown teenager who, among many failings, is unable to understand that sleeping with his best friend’s fiancé is a bad thing.
The trick with any odd-coupling like this is navigating the gulf; the story only works when audiences understand why polar opposites remain friends despite their yawning disparity. For every Neil Simon who can straddle the chasm and strike gold, there are hundreds that don’t. BAD COMPANY, WHO’S THAT GIRL or IDENTITY THIEF anyone? Sadly THE CLIMB sits much closer to the latter than the former.
There are many elements to like about THE CLIMB; its raw, indie feel for a start. The film opens with the promise of being this year’s GARDEN STATE for quirky like-ability. The boys are cycling in the French mountains when Mike reveals his infidelity, a scene that ends with him attacking the bicycle-unfriendly driver of a deux-chevaux. There’s an echo of Basil Fawlty thrashing his own car and the absurdity of the moment is genuinely funny.
Yet despite all that follows as characters are fleshed out, family-relationships extended and a rocky relationship with Kyle’s wife adding grist to a compelling narrative arc, the trajectory is all downhill. It’s downhill because the fulcrum on which all this balances - unshakeable friendship - is utterly unconvincing because Mike is utterly unlikeable. Lacking the shoddy charm of Oscar Madison, Mike is a selfish, self-centered alcoholic determined to keep Kyle tethered to his own imploding life. Kyle, for his part, is a willing enabler but why he continues to choose Mike over reason is never adequately explained.
It leaves a gaping hole in the film’s credibility that no amount of post-hipster humour or camera flourishes can hide. It’s such a shame given the promise of the opening scenes. Yet by the time we reach the closing scenes, the accumulation of Mike’s poor behaviour and Kyle’s poor choices have left you past caring. Any meaningful exploration of an odd couple crippled by inter-dependency has been left on the other side of the climb.