The Fundamentals of Caring

Jun 14, 2016 | Posted by in 2016
EIFF 2016

Rob Burnett’s Netflix original movie The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd as a man trying to get over a recent tragedy by taking on the job of caring for a young man afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Paul Rudd is as likable as ever as Ben. Rudd has always been good at juggling comedy and drama in the same performance and this is a clear example of that. I always find the man immensel watchable and he delivers what you’d expect of him here. His performance actually provides a solid anchor for the viewer to latch onto.

The Fundamentals of Caring

Time for a road trip

The other main character is Trevor (Craig Roberts), he is the sarcastic 18 year old that Ben has to take care of and he also does a solid job. In some ways it’s really good to see that the character functions on a level beyond his disability. Other than his affliction he’s your normal sex obsessed 18 year old who likes to use foul language whenver he has the opportuinity. His disability is very much a secondary aspect of his character and it works very well.

As you might expect, a large part of the story involves Ben and Trevor bonding during all of the time they spend together. There is a great amount of chemistry between them and the way Ben calls him out on his attempts to bait him create some amusement. There’s plenty of solid back and forth banter between the two and it is this central relationship that ultimately carries the film.

Tackling a difficult subject like disability can be problematic when attempting comedy. Go too far one way and something offensive might be said while playing it too safe makes for a really forgettable experience. This film is more on the latter side with a severe lack of genuine attempts to tackle the issue.

The Fundamentals of Caring

The road trip gang

The disease is a big part of the narrative and it informs everything the characters do but beyond some lip service paid to the routines and difficulties that come with them the whole thing comes across feeling a little empty. It’s almost like the film is afraid to make a point about dealing with a disability so just uses it as an excuse to manufacture some comedic situations. There is a lack of depth to the whole thing outside of some fairly mundane platitudes about living life to the fullest or psychoanalysing Ben’s reasons for becoming a carer as perhaps being an attempt to atone for a personal tragedy. All very obvious and altogether dull.  There are several attempts to provoke an emotional response around Ben’s tragedy or the problems of living with a disability but they are so surface level that ultimately they fail to land.

Other missteps the film makes happen in the second half during an ill advised road trip to let Trevor see some of the most mundane landmarks in America. His desire to see things like the largest cow or the biggest pit are amusing for a while but feel somewhat played out when so much time is spent on getting the characters to those landmarks.

The road trip introduces some pointless characters such as a young runaway named Dot (Selena Gomez) who joins them on their travels and has a sarcastic comment for everything while serving as an object of desire for Trevor. She isn’t all that well written and the attempt at a love story between Trevor and Dot doesn’t come across as believable. It’s a combination between the writing and Gomez’ performance that never manages to be believable. For some reason that attitude doesn’t really suit her and it is constantly there to be observed.

Another hanger on is introduced in the form of the irritating pregnant woman Peaches (Megan Ferguson). She is in so few scenes that it’s hard to get a sense of who she is and invest in her reasons for braving the open road on her own. She also doesn’t blend in with the group dynamic at all and it was already struggling when Dot enters the story. I’m sure you can guess what happens to a wayward pregnant lady randomly added to the group by way of a third act complication.

The Fundamentals of Caring

Selena Gomez has so much attitude


A fairly dull and predictable experience that plays everything far too safe. Any attempts to create an emotional connection feel forced and clumsy while all the story beats can be seen coming a mile off. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts are the highlight here with lots of chemistry and some genuinely funny character moments but beyond that there isn’t much to recommend here. It does nothing to offend and it could serve as middle of the road Netflix background viewing when it appears on June 24th.

  • 6.5/10
    The Fundamentals of Caring - 6.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • good chemistry between Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts
  • some amusing dialogue
  • an overall inoffensive experience

Rise Against…

  • pointless characters
  • a dull and predictable plot
User Review
6/10 (1 vote)