Next up on the Netflix A-Z after a little break is a Netflix Original called The Fundamentals of Caring released this year. Netflix exclusives have been quite good. More referring to TV series than movies since this is the first one I’ve seen, but the cast is cool. I like all three of the leads. Plus, Netflix A-Z is all about digging up some cool movies in the crazy variety of choices available. Fantasia Festival is going through a little gap of screenings so I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on this segment.
Let’s check it out!
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Director: Rob Burnett
Cast: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson
A man suffering an incredible amount of loss enrolls in a class about care-giving that changes his perspective on life.-IMDB
The Fundamentals of Caring is odd. Its not exactly a bad movie but at some moments, it seems to take a rather predictable route for a movie that could have a bigger impact on our connection to the characters or to the situation itself. Perhaps that is the real problem: connecting with the characters. The premise it takes its a good one. Its one that as a drama or comedy or whatnot, it can take us on a fun and inspiring journey about a man who is a writer turned caregiver going through a divorce after losing a son in some way that is slowly revealed to us. Its about a teenage boy raised by a single mother whose father left when he was diagnosed and has never seen the world who gets the chance to finally see all the lame landmarks he has penciled in. And on the road, they meet up with a young girl who also is going by herself to Denver because she believes there’s more there while we also know that she is having issues with her father. Notice the connection of fatherhood going on (along with pain and loss).
Lets take a look at the characters. All of them do a decent job. Craig Roberts, plays Trevor, our main character who is a young adult suffering from muscular dystrophy since he was three. He carries a compelling role and in many ways does the best job out of the three main characters here. Maybe its because he has a disability and that this is his first trip and we start seeing a lot of his strength and braveness questioned and conquered. In the end, he is still a joker despite his situation. He pulls the most ridiculous jokes like faking choking and all that. But he also is interesting because his characters changes in moods quite a bit and in the end, he manages to show us that its not disabilities that make him different. In fact, seeing the world and encountering new things and having dreams come true even if its just seeing the World’s Deepest Pit, makes him a very real person. It reminds us that its the simple things. Just like the best moment and character defining moment is when he is asked what he would do if he could stand suddenly and he answers: to pee standing up.
One of the best moments are between Trevor and his caregiver Ben Benjamin, who is played by Paul Rudd. I can’t say that I connected with the character of Ben a lot. It is done fairly well that there is definitely something that is holding him down and it has to do with his son’s death but only get what happens afterwards and in between some hints of what happen. It also makes us question why he became a caregiver and it is an issue that is asked, which is a good one because this is where we also get to question his character and whether the deeds he does for Trevor is for himself or for Trevor’s benefit. The relationship between the two is the highlight of the film.
Another thing The Fundamentals of Caring truly emphasizes is that Trevor is in control of his future despite his muscular distrophy. No one will judge him quite as much as himself if he lets it bring him down. Its what makes his first encounter with meeting with Selena Gomez’s character Dot, a somewhat run away hitchhiking young adult, seem fun. He is awkward and nervous like other boys seeing a girl they crush on but eventually finds the courage to just be himself. Except we can’t ignore Dot. While I feel like her performance is a little weaker and its also because she doesn’t have as much screen time but she brings a different energy on screen and perhaps a different humor. That can also be said for their next final pick-up off the side of the road as they pick up Megan Ferguson’s character, Peaches who is a simple-minded distressed mom-to-be.
However, it is hard to pinpoint what didn’t seem to go down so well. Maybe its that it still felt a little awkward but it seemed to want to have that teenage angst to it especially because the character Trevor has really only lived in his comfort zone. Maybe its that some of the relationships seemed rushed or not as able to connect to. It seems hard to think about the flaws and its empty when I can’t even pinpoint it but while its not a perfect film, the heart of The Fundamentals of Caring is there. It sends some good messages that perhaps may be wrapped up in a rather predictable storyline but it does work for the most part. Our characters are engaging and are different in their own issues that they deal with. They each teach us something different. In the end, its a rather heartwarming experience. You know what this is good for? A rainy day.
Have you seen The Fundamentals of Caring? What did you think?
G Selection is a drama thriller with Orlando Bloom. Any guesses?