Based on the book ‘The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ from author Johnathan Evison, this film adaptation from director Rob Burnett (We Made This Movie) stars Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, and Selena Gomez as an unlikely trio on a road trip to visit Americas most peculiar roadside attractions. Recently released on Netflix, does this comedy drama do better than recent rubbish Netflix exclusives Special Correspondents or The Do-Over?
Paul Rudd stars as Ben, a retired writer who is training to become a caregiver following the tragic loss of his son, and impending divorce by his wife. After passing the six week course and claiming his certificate Ben finds a job caring for Trevor, an 18 year old boy with a wry sense of humour who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. After an uncomfortably funny interview the pair hit it off and begin to develop a bond. Elsa (Jennifer Ehle), Trevors mother, becomes worried by the closeness the pair are developing due to the fact Trevor’s father left them after his diagnosis when he was younger, as well as the circumstances that have brought Ben into the care giving profession. Then one day, after discovering Trevor’s unusual interest in the unconventional roadside attractions of America, Ben suggests he break out of his monotonous regime and see the world while he still can. Despite the reservations of Elsa and Trevor, he and Ben hit the road to see such extravagant sights such as the “worlds largest stuffed bovine”, and “the worlds deepest pit”.
Despite a less than stellar track record for Netflix original films, the streaming giant now has something to be proud of for the first time since The Beasts of No Nation. It’s not quite something for Netflix to hang their hat on, but we guarantee it’ll be nicest, easiest, comedy drama you’ll watch this summer. It’s quite an achievement for director Rob Burnett, who is more synonymous with writing for The Late Show with David Letterman than he is for directing. However it’s not the films direction that stands out in this road trip film, it’s the central relationship between Trevor and Ben which gives the film more heart than Love-a-Lot Bear from the Care Bears, without being saccharine.
The relationship developed in the film owes a lot to the chemistry and abilities of the main acting duo of Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts. Rudd, who we know can do comedy in his sleep, takes to the dramatic side of his character with aplomb, with Roberts absolutely nailing the quick witted but reserved Trevor. Without this essential dynamic, the comedy and the drama would have fell flat. Speaking of comedy, throughout the film the pair use Trevor’s disability and care requirements to humour themselves at the expense of the other with great effect, which as funny as it is, is also nice to see characters with disabilities being utilised for emotions other than gut wrenching drama. It’s a refreshing angle to take. As the duo make their way across the country they come into contact with a couple of different characters, Dot and Peaches, who play a small part in their journey. Dot, played admirably by Selena Gomez, is a hitchhiking girl the duo pick up who is running away from home to restart her life in Denver, and Peaches is a heavily pregnant woman heading home whose car has broke down. Though Peaches is very much foil for Ben to overcome the loss of his own son, Dot opens up Trevor’s character forcing him to meet his shyness head on.
Though it rubs off as fairly routine stuff, it’s none the less effective, living in a world with so much hate this lovely little film just goes to show the effectiveness of caring for those around you, as well as yourself. If you’re looking for a feel good film with a touch of heart then look no further than this indie comedy The Fundamentals of Caring. If you don’t come out of the film with even the smallest smile on your face than you’ve surely got a cold slab of stone in place of a heart, and there is no cure for that.