Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Director – Rob Burnett
Writers – Rob Burnett
Starring – Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Craig Roberts
Rating – TV-MA
Genre –Comedy, Drama
Metascore – 55/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 78%
Streaming on Netflix
It’s been said that we create art to help us understand the world around us. Or, I’m sure somebody said it. It sounds like some bull spit someone would’ve written down. Either way, it’s true that we do this and it’s fascinating to see what we can conjur up to help us cope with and understand life’s pains and sufferings. Netflix’s latest original film, The Fundamentals of Caring is an excellent example of trying to understand real pain through real humor. FoC isn’t anything totally unique or groundbreaking, the story isn’t even really all that standout, but the performances are heartfelt and the laughs are real, even though they are largely situational.
Ben Benjamin (for real), played by Paul Rudd, is an ex-writer, almost-divorcé, who is harboring much guilt and shame from his past. Seeking redemption as he comes into his new job as an in-home caregiver he encounters Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young man with muscular dystrophy. You might be thinking that it would be cruel to laugh at buddy-cop-style humor about a care giver and a severely handicapped young man, but that doesn’t last long as we quickly see that Trevor hasn’t let his disease define or control him; rather he uses it as a source for humor and strength. Trevor’s strength runs two ways, as we see; his ability to laugh at his disease, is often the same skill that alienates him from others behind a wall of cynicism. The dichotomy of his character is that he is paralyzed physically though not in spirit. The point of this film is that the world may have not dealt you much in the way of your life (maybe it’s even dealt you a deficit) but it’s actually better to spend what we’ve been given rather than try to recoup what we’ve been short-changed; life is meant to be spent.
Ben and Trevor take a road trip that is ultimately through the dark night of each of their souls, searching out how to spend themselves and uncover the wounds in their lives. Along the way they pick up a young hitchhiker named Dot (Gomez) who is hiding her own wounds with hilarious cynicism. I honestly am not a huge Selena Gomez fan, but her performance in FoC might have changed my opinion; she’s absolutely fierce.
As I said, the movie has heart, but not much else. It’s predictable and the performances (apart from Trevor’s) don’t appear to be all that challenging. Some of the camera sequences feel rather cheesy and locations feel like a CW series. But, the real enjoyable core of this movie isn’t meant to be it’s cinematic qualities. It’s taking something hard and difficult, the true suffering of life, and laughing through the pain and the tears. Every time Trevor pretends to choke on food and freak Ben out, it reminds us that a good relationship is stronger than life’s tribulations. It’s worth the 90 minutes, it doesn’t beg you to invest more than it’s worth.
Author: Blake Burrough
499 rating – 7 / 10