A genially clever and only semi-aggravating indie comedy arriving in theaters, “The Climb” falls into the Bromance genre, sub-category Nice Guy/Bad News Friend. The actor playing the Bad News Friend, Michael Angelo Covino, also directed the movie and co-wrote it with Kyle Marvin, the actor playing the Nice Guy. Their characters’ names are Mike and Kyle. It’s fair to think this one’s coming from close to home.
Unfolding over a period of years, the film nominally takes its title from the opening scene, in which Mike and Kyle are on a biking trip in the French countryside. As they puff and pump their way up a steep incline, the raffish Mike informs the bearish Kyle that he has slept with Kyle’s fiancee. Multiple times. “I’m going to kill you!” wheezes Kyle. “I know; that’s why I told you on a hill,” says Mike.
That long opener is filmed in one ingeniously smooth shot by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, and as “The Climb” wends its way through the years, and as the friends’ relationships with each other and their girlfriends and families take multiple turns, each “chapter” is presented in smartly thought-out single takes. Except when they’re not; it’s a tough gimmick to sustain and the filmmakers don’t seem too intent on trying.
They do like to throw curveballs, though — viz, an early sequence that begins like a wedding but is revealed to be a funeral. “The Climb” turns somewhat more serious as it goes, with Mike’s wild ways an increasing liability to both him and anyone within his orbit. Covino plays his character with the energetic certainty of a man who has charm but no impulse control; you can see why people love Mike and also can’t be near him. Marvin’s Kyle, by contrast, is one of those kind-hearted pushovers who either have a noble faith in people or are just gluttons for punishment. We’ve seen these two before — “Sideways” (2004) is probably the best version of the tale — but the lead duo keep the dynamic fresh by reminding us it’s eternal.
Some good actors get lost in the fray: George “Cheers” Wendt barely registers as Kyle’s beery father and Talia Balsam fights bravely for her scenes as Kyle’s meddlesome mom. Gayle Rankin, a delightfully tough-faced actress last seen in the Maine murder comedy “Blow the Man Down,” earns her stripes as Kyle’s fiancee (not the same one referenced earlier), trying to pry her man from his best friend and worst influence. Rankin’s crack timing and lethal way with dialogue put her at the center of a funny drunk scene and an even better church wedding.
In its final stretches, “The Climb” waxes wistful about the places life and friendship take us — the title’s a metaphor, too, see? — and you may be moved enough to wish the filmmakers were able to move you more. The movie has a good amount of truth and a fair amount of enjoyable lies, and it ends with a shrug that contradicts the scars we’ve spent 97 minutes watching get inflicted.
Directed by Michael Angelo Covino. Written by Covino and Kyle Marvin. Starring Covino, Marvin, Gayle Rankin. At Boston Common, Kendall Square, West Newton, suburbs. 97 minutes. R (language, sexual content, some nudity, brief drug use).