The Fundamentals of Caring review: Paul Rudd’s road trip is worth taking
The Fundamentals of Caring
Director - Rob Burnett
Cast - Paull Rudd, Craig Robers, Selena Gomez, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Ehle
Rating - 3/5
“You never told me what you did before you got into the wiping ass business,” asks Trevor, a 20-year-old with a mouth dirtier than a forgotten dumpster. “I was a writer,” comes the reply from Ben, the butt wiper to whom the question was addressed.
Ben is Trevor’s caregiver, a qualification he has just acquired after completing a six week course. Trevor has muscular dystrophy, a disease that Ben learns, after conducting proper research, affects 1 in 3,500 males. It also probably means Trevor has little chance of surviving beyond 30.
The Fundamentals of Caring is Netflix’s first truly good original movie since their first, the masterpiece Beasts of no Nation. And coming off of two especially horrible (even by his standards) late-period Adam Sandler films and the worst thing Ricky Gervais has ever done, it’s a welcome relief.
Trevor, like every movie character with a terminal illness, is blessed with a spirit stronger than an ox, and a sense of humour that would probably get him in trouble if he wasn’t – you know – ill. His dream is to road trip across America to the most un-subtle metaphor ever: The World’s Deepest Pit. And we all know movie road trips never happen with one broken character, they require at least two. Luckily for Trevor, Ben is as broken as they come. His stalled writing career aside, his wife is forcing him into a divorce after the death of their baby boy, and, at 45, he finds himself wiping the butts of smartass kids.
As is often the case with movies like this – think of it like a John Green adaptation directed by James Ponsoldt and scored by Arcade Fire – it’s filled to the brim with clichés (to the extent that there’s a shot of Trevor doing the swirly hand wave thing out of the window like he’s in a Bon Iver video or something). But unlike most films, it uses the clichés to its advantage.
Ben and Trevor sleep in dingy motels, eat at greasy diners. They run into quirky characters along the way. And when they pick up a hitchhiking Selena Gomez, they even find love, just like in the movies.
As the motley crew journeys on, searching as they must for their true purpose in life, the film piles on the emo drama as if the Germans are taking over the world tomorrow and bringing with it their own, uniquely emotionless rules of existence.
The Fundamentals of Caring isn’t quite as good as last year’s Paper Towns, or even the French smash hit The Intouchables, but it’s still, in its own charming way, quietly enjoyable.
Much of it is because of the terrific cast, led by the eerily likeable Paul Rudd in a performance that reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I Love You Man – two other great Paul Rudd movies. If you’ve seen Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, you’ll probably remember Craig Roberts, who, as Trevor here, delivers his best performance since that breakthrough role. But, somewhat surprisingly, it was Selena Gomez who left the biggest impact as a character so tragically lost, she gave the impression that she’d been studying Penny Lane from Almost Famous for weeks.
Clichés exist for a reason. And The Fundamentals of Caring plays like a feature-length argument for clichés. That doesn’t sound like high praise, I know. But let’s pretend that it is.