Saturday movie review: The Fundamentals of Caring

Paul Rudd has created a career primarily out of funny films. I like him best, though, when he's not funny. I'm not talking comedic bits that crash and elicit crickets. No, I mean his dramatic roles where he reveals more heart than humor that most endear me to Mr. Rudd.

I found Rudd's most recent part of that sort, in THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING, more endearing than any before.

The Fundamentals of Caring Netflix Original

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING is a Netflix Original film and I must first give kudos to Netflix for taking a chance and creating superb original cinema for the small screen. More and more, I'm finding my new favorite films come from my streaming queue more so than the local theater, this one being the most recent gem.

Paul Rudd stars in THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING as Ben Benjamin, a guy dealing with a personal mess of life-altering sorts — his estranged wife dogs him to sign the divorce papers she's initiated and he recently suffered a loss initially alluded to then later fully revealed. Ben has completed a caregiving course and interviews for the position of caring for Trevor (Craig Roberts), an angry 18-year-old young man who lives with his mother (Jennifer Ehle) and is disabled by muscular dystrophy.

Ben gets the job, and he and Trevor soon set out on an impromptu road trip to see wacky roadside attractions as well as drop in on Trevor's dad, who abandoned Trevor and his mother when Trevor was three. Along the way, they provide rides to a gritty and foul-mouthed — but sweet — runaway of sorts named Dot (Selena Gomez) and pregnant-as-can-be Peaches (Megan Ferguson) whose car expired on the road. The unlikely band of travelers have little in common except that they all carry emotional baggage related to parent/child roles and responsibilities.

Though I wouldn't classify the film a comedy, there are certainly humorous parts. And lots of heart. And some heartbreaking moments, too. In fact, I recommend having tissues nearby; I came close to an ugly-cry episode about three-quarters of the way through the movie... and again near the end.

Rudd nails the damaged-man part without sappiness or silliness. He can chuckle at himself as well as cheer those around him, yet his sorrow always lurks just below the surface. Roberts' character's physical disability counters well Rudd's character's emotional disability. The difficulties each faces in their familial role — Trevor's as a son in contrast to Ben's as a father — play out satisfactorily, too, without oversentimentality that could have easily occurred in a lesser storyline.

Selena Gomez charms as Dot, responding positively to Trevor's crush on her without patronizing him because of his disability.

Bobby Canavale — another oft-comedic actor whom I most appreciate in dramatic roles — has a small but significant role that warmed my heart, one I won't spoil by spilling the secret here.

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING is about not giving up despite the odds and the pain, having compassion for yourself as well as others, embracing humor and fellow humans and whatever opportunities might come your way to help smooth this bumpy ride we call life.

A featurette on the film:


THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING (rated TV-MA — basically the same as an R rating — due to the language) premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and has been available on Netflix Streaming since June 24.