Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
Note: With The Fundamentals of Caring out this weekend, we’re re-running our review from the Sundance Film Festival.
Often times at Sundance you see the same stories played out with different characters. This year alone, for example, there are two movies about an estranged New York man returning home when his mother comes down with a debilitating ailment. Familiar indie stories don’t always work on the festival circuit, but sometimes when the right cast comes together, a decent amount of magic happens. Such is the case with The Fundamentals of Caring, a road trip comedy with heart based on Jonathan Evison‘s bestselling novel of nearly the same name and starring British sensation Craig Roberts (Submarine) and the always reliable Paul Rudd. Keep reading the Fundamentals of Caring review after the jump.
The indie written and directed by Late Night with David Letterman executive producer Rob Burnett follows a morose Rudd as Ben. He’s put off signing his divorce papers for years, haunted by flashbacks to a terrible accident three years ago that brought about the death of his son. Thankfully, it’s not all gloom as he’s looking to turn things around by getting a job as a caregiver to those who can’t take care of themselves. But he didn’t expect to get stuck with Trevor (Roberts), a smart-ass, lively 18-year old with muscular dystrophy and a great concern about getting a good ass wiping, since he can’t do it himself.
At first, some of the comedy between Ben and Trevor can feel a bit uncomfortable. You’re not prepared to laugh at or with someone in a wheelchair, even if you know they’re just acting. And it occasionally becomes even more unsettling when Rudd lays into Roberts, or vice versa, at times of anger and emotional outburst. But that’s also a testament to the genuine performances both actors put in. Thankfully, after spending some time with the vulgar, blunt, and witty Trevor, the sky is the limit when it comes to how off-color or insulting these two get with each other, and the laughs come flying fast.
The pieces of this story could have easily made for a cliched, made-for-TV movie. Both of these guys are paralyzed in their own way. We get it. But it’s the boundless charm and comedic presence of both Rudd and Roberts together that makes this work better than it could have been, resulting in a charming and hilarious (often darkly so) road trip that is delightful and a bit salacious at the same time. Rudd’s irresistible charm really comes through in a quick scene when he shoves a Slim Jim in Roberts’ face, trying to get him to venture out of his comfort zone by putting a “bit of James” in his mouth.
Adding a surprising amount of humor and filthiness to the proceedings is Selena Gomez as Dot, a girl hitchhiking to Denver, Colorado with just as crude of a sense of humor and just as profane of a mouth mouth as Trevor. The two make quite a cute, unlikely couple, and Gomez never feels as out of place as you might expect a pop music star to be in a movie like this. She also doesn’t feel like she’s trying too hard to impress anybody.
Just from the description you can tell the movie is going to be a little hammy. And there are plenty of cheesy moments to be had, but the comedy works so well thanks to the efforts of Rudd and Roberts that the movie never feels cheap, even if the scenic visual effects during a certain triumphant climactic scene are. It’s an indie comedy after all, so there’s only so much money that can be spent on a shot like this.
The Fundamentals of Caring is nothing groundbreaking, but it has just the right amount of comedy and drama to make for a satisfying film festival entry. Rob Burnett should probably dive head-on into feature comedies now that he’s done with Late Night, because this proves that he has a gift for really bringing out the best in material that is a little mawkishly sentimental. So I would like to see what he can do with something different. In the end it’s Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts who make quite the raucously hilarious pair, making for a film that, despite some melodrama, is thoroughly entertaining.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10Cool Posts From Around the Web: