REVIEW: The Fundamentals of Caring

22 06 2016

The Fundamentals of CaringSundance Film Festival

Caring. It’s what Paul Rudd’s character, Ben, gives in his profession as a caretaker for Craig Roberts’ sardonic, wheelchair-bound teenager Trevor. Ironically, it’s also what he needs personally given that his marriage has fallen apart and his aspirations as a writer have dried up.

That’s about as deep as the insights go in Rob Burnett’s “The Fundamentals of Caring.” Not to damn with faint praise – but let me damn with faint praise – the film will sit nicely on Netflix along with countless other TV-movie style dramedies. Seeing it on the streaming platform probably makes far more sense than watching it at a major film festival.

The primary joys of the film come from the bickering and bantering between Ben and Trevor. Each tries to one up each other with practical jokes that plunge into some truly black territory surrounding death and illness. Rudd dons a more melancholy hat as Ben, playing someone demonstrably more introspective than his usual acid-spitters. Roberts, quite the comedic talent in his own right, can surprisingly stand toe to toe with Rudd for laughs.

Most of the film is just the two of them (save a brief spell where Selena Gomez’s Dot joins the fun), enduring one another as Trevor tries to make Ben’s job as difficult as possible to make himself feel somewhat powerful. Burnett can find the connection in these moments but never quite gets beneath the skin for either. And that does not even change, mind you, when they take a medically risky road trip to visit some questionable American landmarks. C+2stars