The Fundamentals of Caring, written and directed by Rob Burnett, is a funny and quick-witted film with a ton of heart. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts turn in excellent performances as Ben Benjamin and Trevor, respectively. Rudd and Roberts get the most out of their well-written characters and show their comedic and dramatic range. Though some of the film's plot is predictable, its characters are charming and intriguing enough to keep the film afloat.
At its core, The Fundamentals of Caring is a film about overcoming personal grief in order to live life to the fullest (or at least come to terms with the life you are living). Paul Rudd plays a Ben Benjamin, who eventually becomes a caregiver for Craig Roberts' character, Trevor. Trevor is a teenager with muscular dystrophy and requires a caregiver while his mother is at work. It is clear right from the start of the movie that Trevor is cynical and has a great sense of humor. Roberts deserves credit for playing Trevor in a way where it's sometimes hard to tell when his cynicism is a joke or a serious thing. Fundamentals is at its best when Ben and Trevor are on screen being sarcastic to one another. With Ben being much older, though, his comments and advice to Trevor sometimes come off as fatherly. The banter between Ben and Trevor is what makes their road trip equal parts funny and sad.
Both Ben and Trevor are complicated characters with emotionally taxing backstories. You can tell that they both love to laugh, but that they've also been hurt to the point of being overly-sensitive. Trevor, especially, is extremely vulnerable because of his muscular dystrophy. Since Ben needs to take care of him, Trevor cannot always escape conversations with Ben. The film's pace starts to pick up once Ben and Trevor pick up Dot (Selena Gomez). While Dot's character is refreshing to meet in the film, I couldn't help but find her running into Ben and Trevor twice a little outlandish. Additionally, Dot's character is too rigid at first. It is unclear whether Dot's rigidity is due to the way her character is written or Selena Gomez's performance. Thankfully, as the film progresses, Dot becomes infinitely more interesting and likable. Even though her character grew on me, I still found it hard to buy into her backstory and motivations. It would've been nice to know a little bit more about Dot, especially since her story is an important part of the end of the film.
While Ben and Trevor's road trip is full of funny and emotional moments, it's also riddled with clichés. The emotional highs and lows of the trip, with the exception of the film's ending, are easy to see coming. The great thing about Fundamentals is that it plays around with some of those predictable moments. An example of this is when Trevor fakes choking on a piece of food in order to worry Ben. While dying is certainly nothing to joke about, Trevor's decision to "choke" shows that he has a great sense of humor about both life and death. The performances of Rudd, Roberts, and Gomez are good enough that some of the predictable moments aren't so hard to watch.
The Fundamentals of Caring is a Netflix Original Movie and is streaming now (as of August 20, 2016). The film is worth a watch if you're looking for an emotionally charged comedy or something with charm and wit.Our Rating: Rent