The Good: Wonderful performances, Engaging characters
The Bad: Some predictable plot moments, Supporting characters are a bit flat
The Basics: Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts deliver impressive performances in what could have otherwise been an average road trip film, The Fundamentals Of Caring.
For September, Selena Gomez is my Artist Of The Month for my music reviews - check out the review of her album Revival here! - and in addition to her musical career, she is now an actress. As a result, I decided to devote a couple of my movie reviews this month to works that include Selena Gomez in the cast. The Fundamentals Of Caring has Gomez getting third billing and it is somewhat surprising given that Jennifer Ehle has such a significant initial role in the movie. Gomez does fine in her role, but The Fundamentals Of Caring is hardly her film.
The Fundamentals Of Caring is a Netflix Original Film vehicle for Paul Rudd and Rudd stars in the dramedy opposite Craig Roberts and Selena Gomez for the bulk of the film. As I frequently do in such circumstances, it is worth noting that the film The Fundamentals Of Caring is based upon a novel, by Jonathan Evison, which I have not read. This is a very pure review of the film The Fundamentals Of Caring.
Ben Benjamin is served with divorce papers and depressed, so he becomes a certified caregiver to move on with his life. His first patient is Trevor, who introduces himself to Ben by pranking Ben during the job interview. On his first day caring for Trevor, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, Ben learns the rigid rules and routines of his charge's life. Trevor continues to prank Ben, though they quickly bond and enjoy time with one another. Trevor refuses to read letters from his father and when Ben learns that his ward knows about the personal tragedy in Ben's life, he gets upset with Trevor.
To avoid his process server and challenge Trevor, Ben lets Trevor manipulate his mother, Elsa, into taking him on a road trip to see the World's Deepest Pit. In Idaho, the pair encounters Dot, a hitchhiker, a second time. Before going to meet Trevor's father in Salt Lake City, Ben and Trevor pick up Dot. Trevor is clearly enamored with Dot and finally gets up the courage to ask her out on the road trip. When the van approaches a car, burnt out on the side of the road, they pick up the very pregnant Peaches and she joins them on their cross-country quest.
The Fundamentals Of Caring is a well-executed film that instantly reminds viewers that people with physical disabilities or ailments are human beings. As stupid as it might be to have to point such a thing out, so often the characters who have handicaps in media are the handicap before the personality. Trevor is not that and it does not take much goading by Ben before Trevor's sarcasm and prickish nature come out strong.
Essentially a road trip, The Fundamentals Of Caring goes through a third of its run-time before Selena Gomez even appears on film. Gomez manages to quickly escape the "good girl" reputation she built on the Disney Channel by using the word "fucking" every sentence for her first few exchanges of dialogue. Gomez does more than just swear and smoke; she does a pretty amazing dead-eyed stare that has a surprising amount of force behind it in The Fundamentals Of Caring. Gomez and Craig Roberts have wonderful timing for keeping their lines feeling both fresh and fast. They have adorable on-screen chemistry.
The Fundamentals Of Caring makes great use of Paul Rudd's dry sense of humor. While some moments - most notably the moment when Ben tries to get Trevor to try a Slim Jim - are very derivative of his other performances, that moment being virtually identical to Rudd working opposite himself in the mirror in Wanderlust (reviewed here!), most of Rudd's acting allows him to blend the serious and humorous moments. In the moment when Ben pulls the van over to save the choking Trevor, Rudd manages to effectively embody a realistic caregiver. As well, he completely lands the deadpan when Ben pranks Trevor.
Rather unsurprisingly, the dramatic powerhouse of The Fundamentals Of Caring is Craig Roberts. Roberts plays Trevor and his physical performance in The Fundamentals Of Caring is impressive. Roberts plays the humor and the intensity of Trevor incredibly well. At the peak of the dramatic tension, Roberts and Rudd square off and they have a magnificent sense of gravitas between them. Roberts makes Trevor incredibly watchable and keeps the tone of The Fundamentals Of Caring entertaining when it could begin to feel oppressive.
The Fundamentals Of Caring is a road trip movie that manages to unfold in a compelling way - with humor and drama, with characters that are easy to empathize with and performances that are easy to appreciate. It is the first Netflix Original film I've seen that is actually worth watching.
For other Netflix exclusives, please check out my reviews of:
House Of Cards - Season 1
Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
Daredevil - Season 2
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 2
Grace And Frankie - Season 1
Sense8 - Season 1
Arrested Development - Season 4
Stranger Things - Season 1
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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