Film Review: The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

As part of the Clerk’s mission to provide journalism that reflects the voices of the community, but also share content that is intellectually stimulating, we hope to initiate an Arts and Culture section. Kevin Medansky writes the Clerk’s first film review as part of this effort.

NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX:

While this comical tale of a man-turned-caregiver and his first new client may pull the heart in many directions, its limited sense of originality shines through above the rest. Above all, it is a predictable journey of a man and his disabled compatriot, as they embark upon a journey that leads them to an understanding of their passions and desires not any more unique or profound than the title of the film.

Rating: 2.5/4

Series Description: While the season leading up to the Oscars may often instill a strong wish in cinephiles and normal people alike to re-immerse themselves in the year’s greatest films, very often, many of the truly great films from the year are left out of the spotlight. In this series, up until the big night, I’ll review some of the many renowned independent films of the year that may not necessarily be on the traditional pre-Oscars watchlist.

Review:

Having originally premiered almost exactly one year ago at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, The Fundamentals of Caring (Burnett) is a tale of an unemployed and underappreciated writer, Ben (Paul Rudd), seeking a second chance with his newest job: Performing as a caregiver for a sarcastic and lovably frustratingly teenager, Trevor (Craig Roberts). And yet, the inconceivably adoring pair forges a relationship through their idiosyncrasies, and Ben soon becomes accustomed to quotidian life with Trevor, including all of the many dirty tasks involved with keeping Trevor clean, fed, and healthy. When Trevor’s mom leaves the two together for a week, they decide upon a quest. Together, they will roadtrip throughout the American West, to see all of the biggest and craziest sites imaginable, even if it means driving tens of miles out of their way for a taxidermied cow.

Of course, along the way, as might be imagined on a quest of the sort, they pick up a hitchhiking teenager named Dot (Selena Gomez) along the way, and a quirky pregnant woman named Peaches (Megan Ferguson), to wind up composing a symphony of strange personalities in quite the small medical van.

As the miles pass, a variety of unsurprising clichés come into play—Trevor develops a love interest in Dot; Ben has to reconcile with his own troubled family life; and Peaches might just be in the story solely for the sake of adding to Ben’s emotional weight.

Throughout the progression of each of these individual plotlines, viewers may delight in uniquely heart-rending shots of each of the characters, including a handful of longing flashbacks to Ben’s past, as they contemplate their troubled existences, but they are certainly short-lived.

And yet, the film itself is hardly more than a haphazard compilation of films dealing with similar material, such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (Hallström, 1993) and The Intouchables (Nakache and Toledano, 2012).

While it certainly comes to life by cheaply satisfying our innermost wishes for empathy and love, it may largely be skipped without regret.

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes.

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