Sometimes, the best jokes are the ones that almost kill you.
Ben (Paul Rudd) doesn’t really know where he’s going with his life, nor does he know what he wants to do with it. After tragedy that struck him and his ex-wife, he’s now left all alone. Although he was a writer, at one point in his life, he seems too depressed and sad to even bother picking up a pen and paper and jotting down a new story. That’s why, when he decides to become a licensed caregiver for the physically handicapped, it’s a huge surprise; not just to him, though, but also to the people who employ him. After taking the classes and becoming certified, Ben lands the job of taking care of Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young kid from England who happens to be suffering from muscular dystrophy. While Ben has no experience in taking care of people professionally, he eventually gets the hang of everything because he and Trevor get along. But the one issue holding them back is the fact that Trevor doesn’t seem all that interested doing anything else in his short life than just watching TV; Ben, on the other hand, believes that Trevor needs to go out and explore the world.
The Fundamentals of Caring is perfect for Netflix. After suffering through not one, but two Adam Sandler flicks, it seems like Netflix wants to remind people that they do consider quality over popularity, and with the Fundamentals of Caring, they show that they do care for their users. They know that some people, in this time of the year, where the sun is always setting, the air is getting stickier, and the weather is getting hotter and hotter, will just want to sit inside their cool houses and escape it all by watching whatever is on Netflix that piques their interest. However, they don’t want heavy, emotionally-strong dramas, nor do they want anything that takes a lot to think about with their constant twists, turns, and moments of interest.
Sometimes, people just want to watch something that they don’t have to think about too much and just enjoy at face-value, and that’s why the Fundamentals of Caring is a perfect movie for the online streaming service. It’s the kind of movie that you can tell was your typical Sundance dramedy, where people suffer and are occasionally sad, yet also, come to terms with their sadness, say clever things, hug a lot and, at the end of it all, end up becoming closer to one another and better people than ever before. We’ve seen this kind of movie before and most of the time, it’s pretty damn annoying and boring.
However, there’s something slightly fresh about this movie’s take on that familiar plot.
Mostly, that’s due to the fact that the cast is so good and talented that no matter what they’re given, they can do wonders with. People will initially be struck surprised by how much Paul Rudd seems to be downplaying everything here as Ben, but give it some time and trust me, he becomes Paul Rudd, as we all know and love him. However, there’s something slightly different to this character than what he’s used to playing; he’s a whole lot more sad and clearly dealing with some demons, so when something is bothering him, you can tell just by looking at him. Rudd is always known for improvising, saying silly things and just generally being a likable presence, but here, he really dials it down and shows that he’s got true acting-chops.
I don’t know if anybody was ever doubting him in the first place, but if they were, here’s their proof that they can use in a court of law!
Craig Roberts is also solid as Trevor, another character that could have been grating and overbearing, but somehow, it works. Roberts has just the right level of smart and insecurity that makes his Trevor more sympathetic; sure, it’s easy to care for him because he’s suffering from such a terrible disease, but he’s also kind of a jerk, too. The movie doesn’t hold back from the fact that someone like Trevor, in his situation and all, could use it to his advantage to make the people around him feel bad for him and wait on his every word. A similar theme was explored in Still Alice, however, here, Roberts shows that there’s more to Trevor that makes him appear as just another teenager who uses mean bits of comedy as a crutch to hide his deepest, darkest insecurities.
Growing up, am I right?
Anyway, him and Rudd have a great chemistry that shows these two growing up beside one another, helping the other realize something about life. The movie can tend to get a tad sappy and melodramatic, but no matter how far it goes into these avenues, Rudd and Roberts always make these characters seem real and worth it – there’s a sense of raw energy between the two that makes their scenes crackle and pop with the same fire that you’d probably see in a Judd Apatow movie when there’s no script and everyone’s just rolling with whatever they can think of.
And at the end of the Fundamentals of Caring, everything happens exactly as you’d expect it to. But for some reason, that’s fine. The movie’s enjoyable and lovely enough, never being too dramatic, nor too funny either – somehow, it found just the right amount of drama and comedy to balance everything out. Some may definitely be expecting more and may also be disappointed that the movie doesn’t light the entertainment world on fire quite like everything else Netflix has done, but hey, it’s the summer.
Stop complaining. Just crank up that AC and check it out. Forget that the Do-Over may be recommended to you at the end.
Consensus: With a solid cast and a careful attention to drama and comedy, the Fundamentals of Caring works, being both a coming-of-ager, as well as an earnest look at coming to terms with one’s sadness.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire