The Fundamentals of Caring is a Netflix original movie and is also the third movie discussing the relationship between a carer and a disabled person that I’ve reviewed since I started this blog. To recap, Me Before You had the carer as a crusader, trying to save the disabled person, then muddied the water with a romantic relationship between them. The Intouchables was a film that placed the carer and the disabled person on fairly level pegging in a platonic relationship. The Fundamentals of Caring then has the characters be truly equal, savagely ripping into each others’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses. A wonderful, hilarious film that manages to be incredibly sweet without it feeling contrived.
Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd) is newly qualified carer who has landed a job caring for the wheelchair bound, acid-tongued, 18-year-old Trevor (Craig Roberts). He suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is an unpleasant ailment to say the least that has no cure as of yet and usually limits a person’s life to 30 and under. Trevor spends all his time in his house, watching TV and it isn’t long before Ben calls him out on this. He convinces Trevor and Trevor’s mother that he should go on a road-trip of tourist attractions so he can experience life outside of the bubble he sets himself. The two set off and along the way pick up the hitch-hiking Dot (Selena Gomez) and the very pregnant Peaches ( Megan Ferguson ). Together this ragtag group of misfits journey together across America, taking in the sights, having fun and coming to terms with some of their personal issues.
Now before we talk about anything else we have to talk about the thing that holds this movie together. that is the performances. The standout is obviously Paul Rudd who has been doing great work for years but is only now creeping into leading man territory, no small thanks to Marvel. He’s really good at conversational comedy. I don’t mean the type where he talks about how weird something is either because that’s not conversational. That’s shitty stand-up. No, it’s focused conversational comedy, discussing things that happened in the film. But there are two halves to a conversation and his co-star Craig Roberts gives as good as he gets. Selena Gomez acquits herself admirably as well, doing a great job of playing the cynical hitch-hiker going to art school. She and Roberts bounce off each other extremely well, with her street smarts and his crippling fear of girls making the romance between the two absolutely adorable to watch. My biggest regret of the film though is Megan Ferguson. She was brilliant, playing this weird, wide-eyed and completely sincere character and I just wish she was there for more of the film. The key word to describe this ensemble is chemistry. All their conversations feel fluid and natural without ever feeling like detours from the plot.
Because of these top quality performances the drama and comedy blend so well together. It’s not hurt by it being really well written either ( kudos to Robert Burnett for the screenplay ), subverting expectations for classic punch lines and dramatic plot points, while in the background managing to turn a running gag into a key part of the dramatic climax. I’d give examples but I really think they work best if you don’t know exactly how they do these things. Suffice to say, both the drama and comedy fooled me more than a couple of times and I don’t mean to brag but I’ve seen a lot of movies so it’s pretty hard to fool me. Suffice to say, I’m impressed. On the odd occasion it can be a bit saccharine but I’m willing to let that slide because of how clever it is in other places.
Given my past reviews, I suppose now I am obliged to talk about how the film portrays the relationship between carer and client. Nothing too complex, they’re friends. Though because the writing is so clever the film sets you up to think there is something else going on with them. Again I hate that I can’t tell you exactly what the film is tricking you into thinking because you really should just watch it yourself. All I’ll tell you is that despite it being a twist it doesn’t feel like they pulled it out of nowhere and builds to quite a satisfying climax.
It may be that this is the first new release I’ve reviewed that I think is good without qualification that I’m being so protective of its secrets. I just really want people to go support this film on Netflix and enjoy it the way I enjoyed it. As an unpredictable road trip movie that is legitimately touching and laugh out loud funny.
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