The “feel-good” comedy is probably the most needed genre for 2020.
Obviously, this year hasn’t been ideal. From the coronavirus pandemic to the stress of the election and most recently the death of adored "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek, as a society, it has become increasingly difficult to feel good about anything. Thankfully, this year has produced some truly wonderful feel-good comedies, the latest of which is “The Climb,” which opens at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center this weekend.
“The Climb” is directed by Michael Angelo Covino, who also co-wrote the film with Kyle Marvin. Covino and Marvin are friends in real life, and “The Climb” is inspired by the spirit of that friendship. The film depicts two childhood friends, Mike and Kyle, played by Covino and Marvin, and the evolution of their relationship over the course of around 15 years.
During these 15 years, we see Mike and Kyle go through many stages of their friendship. They’ve been friends for as long as they remember and are basically family. Now they’re on their own journeys, yet they still feel the need to foster a relationship with one another. Their friendship is a mix of betrayal, reconciliation, reflection, optimism and frustration. There are moments where the two hold nothing but disdain for each other, but the strength of their friendship usually prevails.
What sets “The Climb” apart from many other comedies is how it doesn’t feel tied down by its feel-good nature. It’s more of a feel-good dramedy, as there are just as many moments where the conflict between the two boils over into genuinely compelling dramatic storytelling.
Despite the film’s overall optimism about the friendship between Mike and Kyle, “The Climb” doesn’t shy away from depicting the two of them at their worst. These friends are often awful to one another and do things most would consider unforgivable — such as sleeping with the other’s fiancee.
While these large issues usually end up resolved, the film takes its time in doing so. It doesn’t gloss over these conflicts. Instead, it uses them as a driving force to develop the relationship between these central characters. It’s precisely because the two often hate each other that their friendship is so strong in the long run.
Covino and Marvin made the choice to stretch the narrative of this 90-minute film over 15 years, which ultimately allowed the story and its characters room to breathe without extending the film to an overly lengthy runtime.
This story structure works by splitting the narrative up into about a half-dozen chapters set a few years apart. Each chapter depicts a crucial moment in Mike and Kyle’s friendship. These moments often entirely change the nature of their relationship, whether it be as a result of the death of someone they were both close to or the two of them getting in an explosive argument that would end most friendships. These chapters often end on a dramatic note and then jump to the next chapter several years later, which then allows the audience to see the long-term results of the moments previously shown without getting too bogged down in the details. It was an incredibly intriguing and effective method to tell this story, and it makes “The Climb” hard not to be riveted by.
“The Climb” isn’t the best movie of the year or anything, but it’s certainly a film worth talking about. It spices up a usually monotonous genre by branching out and tackling some truly heartbreaking and infuriating moments.
This film is the first full-length film written by Covino and Marvin, and it’s Covino’s directorial debut, which makes the whole experience all the more impressive. On their first outing, these two filmmakers managed to produce a diverse narrative and satisfying story that is far from the norm of its genre. It sets them both up as names to watch in the industry, as they’re sure to shake things up with more excellent stories moving forward.