“I have to clean him up when he shits himself.” – Ben, The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Ever since finally cashing out and getting a Netflix subscription, I haven’t exactly used it to its full potential. Sure, I’ve used it to watch Peep Show (2003 – 2015) again, but I’ve got that on box set. What I should be doing with a streaming service is watching films and programmes that are exclusive to Netflix. So that’s what I did. Now I did make these notes almost two to three weeks ago, so bear with me. My most recent experiences with the Netflix original movies have been, well, quite shit. But flashback to two weeks ago and that certainly wasn’t the case.
Craig Roberts is in this film. On weekends I tend to watch two films. Before I watched this, I watched Submarine (2010) which is a genuinely perfect film. If anything it’s just a happy coincidence that he’s also starring in The Fundamentals of Caring. He’s an extremely talented actor and is supported very well by Paul Rudd. These two in lead roles are fantastic, they have a specific chemistry that just works so very well. If anything it does create some lovely and heartwarming viewing throughout. Obviously it’s always nice to see Paul Rudd in a film, and it seems that this time he would be trying his hand at a drama film. He’s a funny guy and can work action films like Ant-Man (2016) very well. He’s versatile, and if anything this film proves just that.
I’m quite concerned about my career as a writer, and I have this film to blame for it. As it turns out, Ben (Paul Rudd) is a retired writer because his books wouldn’t sell. Is this the future career I have to look forward to? I can’t say I fancy wiping the arses of the disabled, especially not since it’ll probably take up quite a lot of my film watching time. Rudd is a brilliant actor and he works well with director Rob Burnett in his directorial debut. For a debut film, Burnett is a master behind the camera in both direction and cinematography. Both go hand in hand extremely well in this film with some superb bits and pieces sprinkled throughout the film.
Now that I reflect on this film, it’s a genuine struggle to write about. Sure, it’s a good bit of film, but it slots into that category of “good but forgettable”. To be fair, that’s not a category you want to slip into. For all its great direction and solid performances, there’s nothing really stand out that will make you remember this film for very long. No plot points are anything out of the norm, there’s no amazing revelation from the characters or anything of the sort. It’s certainly run of the mill, but not something you won’t enjoy. In essence, it’s the economy sausage of film. Serving its purpose, not healthy, but it’s still there if you fancy it. Honestly I can’t see the passer by fan of film to enjoy this. Maybe if you like the specific actors within then you’ll enjoy it a bit more.
For me there was a lot of appeal simply from seeing Paul Rudd in the film. It’s nice to see him in something that isn’t Marvel or Judd Apatow related. Craig Roberts was an added bonus after I’d watched Submarine so that doesn’t really count. I will admit though, Roberts is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors. He hasn’t appeared in all that much but in the two films I’ve seen him in he has been solid gold.
What I liked about this film is that it doesn’t sideline the disability of Robert’s character. It’s a driving force throughout the narrative. Trevor (Craig Roberts) is a superb character, he’s well written and the acting is phenomenal. The typically excellent performances can definitely be put more down to the actors portraying them rather than the script. At times the dialogue is rather shaky. That doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable, it just feels a bit robotic at times. Above all it is a bit cliche. The typical romance story with some obviously different characters.
There’s a definite suggestion that this film wants to go for the buddy road trip comedy style. I say that because the setting for this film is literally set on the road. There’s so much you can do with that sort of setting because you can go literally anywhere you want. To say the road trip for this film is unique is an understatement. Rather than rely on the luck of the road, the film tackles with both the difficulty of taking a disabled teenager on the road with the general fun of a road trip. Some of the humour in this is genuinely dark and hilarious. There’s a bit where Trevor pretends he’s choking, so Ben pulls the car over and begins trying to help, then Trevor just starts pissing himself laughing. This scene of Trevor pretending he’s choking lasts for a minute and a half. I was convinced they were going to kill the bastard off in the first half hour.
Unfortunately with all the good that comes from the plot of this film, there is a lot in the way of generic shit. Ben’s son has his own plot line without actually appearing in the film. I won’t give it away, but it’s bollocks and possibly the worst part of the film. Considering how upbeat the rest of the film is, it seems majorly tacked on and forced. It’s not that I didn’t care for this plot, but I didn’t have a clue how it linked in with the rest of the film. When the big reveal was finally, you know, revealed, I didn’t honestly care. It was too far gone to make me care about such big reveals. Ten minutes left on the runtime and they’re still trying to wrap up several plot points at once.
I think the only other piece of film or media I’ve ever seen that portrays muscular dystrophy is Legit (2013 – 2014). At no point in this film does it feel like the film is taking advantage or abusing this portrayal. I think that’s one of the better aspects of this film to be quite honest. Although the script could use some work and at no point did the direction blow me away, it has a likeable cast and enjoyable premise. It doesn’t overstay its welcome either, it’s just the right length and long enough to leave a lasting impression in my mind. The portrayal of an illness is always difficult to nail in a film, and I think The Fundamentals of Caring does a fine job.
For a directorial debut, this is certainly impressive. Sure, it falls into a couple of cliches here and there, but what harm can that do? A surprising amount if I’m quite honest. If it weren’t for a few tacked on subplots and a genuinely annoying performance from Megan Ferguson, this would be a film that is better than “good”. Serviceable shouldn’t be a word to describe a film, yet here we are. Because that’s quintessentially what The Fundamentals of Caring is. If you know what to expect, then you won’t be surprised at the quality or acting.
As far as films go, it’s one of those films that tries its best to be feel good. The chemistry between Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts is superb. If it weren’t for such a cliche plot and some forgettable writing this would have rated much higher. Still, if you’ve got Netflix and are a fan of either Rudd or Roberts then this may very well be worth checking out. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, making it a perfect film to watch on an evening. That’s one of the best parts about this film, it’s a nice film to end your evening on.