By Leah Greenblatt
November 13, 2020 at 05:24 PM EST
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Credit: Zach Kuperstein/Sony Pictures Classics

What is the plural of man-child? Best friends Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) have somehow managed to reach early middle age without ever quite growing up: They tease, they bicker, they wear weird bicycle shorts; they probably (definitely) drink too much.

The Climb (in select theaters now), a low-key hit on last year's film-festival circuit, is the kind of indie dramedy that hardly gets made anymore; a sweetly shambolic tale of friendship and toxic — or at least intoxicated — masculinity shaped around only the barest bones of a plot. Mike, though, is the kind of guy anyone who's reached adulthood will recognize on sight: the scruffed-up Peter Pan who's always fun, and sometimes mean, and never ever takes responsibility for anything.

Oh, he slept with your fiancé? Love works in mysterious ways! He's an inebriated mess at your family holiday? Christmas just makes him emotional, man. Kyle's an archetype too, but an easier, sweeter one; the kind who continues to believe the best of everyone against all evidence. (Though the fiancé thing is at least temporarily a bridge too far, even for him).

As their friendship waxes and wanes, Kyle manages to move on and meet someone new (GLOW's great Gayle Rankin) and Mike manages, mostly, to keep spiraling. Still they can't quit each other, and Covino (who also directs) puts it all into the wry, charming ramble of his and Marvin's script: the circular arguments and ski trips, ice fishing and high-school reminiscing, and one scene featuring what might be the best onscreen burlesque since Jennifer Lopez first twirled down the pole in Hustlers.

Rankin's Marissa, who sees Mike for exactly who he is, may actually turn out to be the best thing that's happened to Kyle — though The Climb's central love story of course is the platonic one between its costars. And for all the absurdist laughs (and not a few cringes) both men wring from it, their interplay feels both inherently ridiculous and entirely true to life; a bittersweet bromance writ in whiskey and spandex. Grade: B+

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