The Fundamental of Caring, directed by Rob Burnett, is an uplifting little film; one that delivers a sweet and endearing story, and also some laughs that you sometimes feel bad for… laughing at. With an honest sense of humour, and characters who gel effortlessly with one another, there are a lot of simple pleasures in this film. Let’s break the film down and see how it shapes up. Can it be as enjoyable as it seems?
The story in ‘The Fundamentals of Caring’ sees Ben Benjamin – played by Paul Rudd – start his new career as an at home carer for, Trevor – played by Craig Roberts – a teenage boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Both characters suffer from their own struggles in life and so it is the decision to embark on a road-trip to see the wonders of America, which bring the two closer, and also help them tackle their personal problems. It is a road-trip of discovery for both.
I think one of the most refreshing elements about this film is its handling of the main characters disability. How does it handle it? By not making it the sole focus of the film; Trevor is someone who doesn’t come off as a cliché, he acts just like any other difficult teenager. Having the film not play out the usual beats that you’d expect from this kind of story, means you have something that is willing to tackle a wider range of topics; both funny and upsetting.
There is also the benefit of a great and honest performance from actor, Craig Roberts. He portrays the character like any other infuriating teen; challenging Ben (his carer) by playing on the stereotypes of how people tip-toe around people with disabilities. Whether Trevor’s making a crass joke or he’s faking a problem, he is not someone who acts as is always portrayed in film. But alongside the jokes that make you laugh – even though you know you shouldn’t – there is an endearing side to Trevor. We also see him at his low points, and what this gives you is a character that feels fleshed out and believable. There’s no pity party here.
There is also the relationship that begins to form between Trevor and Ben. Things start off rocky, but the two find a rhythm with one another that made them feel like two brothers, constantly taking shots at one another – but those shots are quite dark in humour, which only strengthens the honesty of their friendship. It doesn’t get more honest than the two characters using the word “fuck” as a term of endearment. I do wish that the film didn’t rush their bonding in the first act. Much of the beginning of the film is a truncated in its development – it rushes to get to the main adventure and leaves most of the early stages of the characters to short little scenes, or the dreaded (in my opinion) montage. I would have liked some more time with the enjoyable dynamic that was Ben, Trevor and Trevor’s mother, Elsa – played by Jennifer Ehle – as the three bounced off one another really well.
But once things get going (road-trip wise) there is a lot of funny moments and meaningful character exploration. Surprisingly (to me it least, as I hadn’t seen any trailers for the film) is that the film also stars, Selena Gomez – who plays Dot – this is the first time I’ve seen her in an acting capacity, and I have to say, I think she was pretty good in the film. Her character brings a great dynamic to the group and the film, and her presence helps to bolster the comedy and the emotion in the film.
There also shouldn’t be much shock in learning that, Paul Rudd is wonderful in the film. He is an actor who is always reliable, and more than has a resume of films that highlight his funny bones. He certainly brings the funny in this film, but he also is able to pull off the darker side to his character. Something truly traumatic happens in Ben’s past and the film explores that. But what it doesn’t do is it doesn’t do it in a heavy-handed way – it spaces it out, and it gives you just enough to connect with him.
I’ve been referencing the funnier side of this film quite a bit in this review and it’s something that I want to touch upon some more. Unlike every other comedy that finds it’ way into the world, The Fundamentals of Caring is a film that utilise its tightly written script to bring the laughs. Instead of leaving a scene to run on and on, as the actors “Improvise” for far too long, this film relies on a well written script by its director (Rob Burnett). Its humour – like what is available in this film – that there needs to be more of; enough with the tragic attempts at over the top physical humour, enough with the overly “Improvised” scenes where all meaning and tolerance is gone. Let’s just take a step back and once again produce and support well written comedy; ones with actual purpose to them. That’s my little diatribe over now.
I didn’t know what I was going to get when I decided to watch, The Fundamentals of Caring, but when it was finished I was happy with my decision to press play. It’s not a film that’s going to re-shape the cinema landscape, but it is a film with something worthwhile at its core.
So I’m quite happily going to recommend, The Fundamentals of Caring; a simple, sweet little film with a good heart. If you have an open afternoon, give it a watch… and smile.
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