The Fundamentals of Caring full movie review - Fun comedy drama that works well but falls short
The Fundamentals of Caring is the most recent film to be released exclusively through Netflix and it certainly provides a new forward for the company.
With previous films whose distribution rights had been exclusively bought, such as Ricky Gervais' Special Correspondence and the mess that is released by Adam Sandler, it is safe to say that I was very hesitant to enter Rob Burnett's adaption. Burnett's tale centers on the relationship between lonesome retired writer, now turned caregiver, Ben (Paul Rudd) and the disabled teen Trevor (Craig Roberts). It begins as a simple buddy flick with both elements of comedy and tragedy but as the story progresses we follow them as they embark on, what is ultimately, a self-healing road trip through bizarre landmarks to 'The World's Deepest Pit'. On their journey they meet a batch of new characters, such as the rebellious Dot (Selena Gomez), and as they travel to their destination we learn more and more about the nature of the traveling duo.
Now both Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts do a wonderfully respectful job with their roles. Roberts in particular, as the immobilized Trevor, really shines and is able to use his natural smartarse attitude to liven up each scene. Whether it is committing to fool Ben into believing he is choking or the sombre reaction to receiving his father's letters, he in many ways comes across as what Dot calls 'an Asshole' yet you still oddly like his presence. Rudd does a good job portraying a man that has been broken but it is through his conversations with the other characters where his performance comes to life. In fact, the conversations between characters is where Burnett's film really shines. I always find it amazing how through some of the most pointless conversations between characters is often able to make them the most memorable, and in this film these moments are pleasantly scattered throughout. Such scenes where both Ben and Trevor exchange repartee become some of the most immersive sections in the story. As Ben attempts to persuade Trevor to try the classic American road snack, a Slim Jim, these moments become extremely valuable in furthering both the characters' development and also the viewer's connection to the story.
Though the film does offer a range of comedic moments that are executed thoroughly well, there is also a good amount of drama to accompany it. This aspect in most cases works, however during the opening of the film it is partly subdued due to the viewers lack of info. We open the film by understanding that Ben is training to be a caregiver and that he is also concurrently going through a divorce due to some unknown reason. The viewer is able to understand that he is depressed through the exaggerated gloomy looks he gives however it becomes hard to connect with him due to our inability to understand why he should gain any form of sympathy. This party is due to the fact that the film is an adaptation, where unlike a novel you must use alternative means in order to portray the thoughts of a character. To tell you the truth I had no idea that the film was an adaptation and thirty minutes in I was thinking that they would've been better off using this story as an idea for a piece of literature. What saved this concept from sinking the film however was the change of pace in the story. As the characters set off on their road trip the tone of the film becomes completely different. It no longer becomes a story entered on a depressed man undertaking a caregiver's job being confined to a house as he takes care of a boy. Instead it becomes a vast journey in which a man reevaluates his life as he illustrates to the boy what joy there is in the world.
Visually and aurally the film doesn't excel or innovate in any unique and ambitious way but it works well. The cinematography stays relatively simple and standard following the likeness of some of the more recent indie films. A few instances use an arc shot that is set to dazzle the viewer as they spin round the characters taking in the unique landscape but the use of stylistic shots like this are relatively scarce. The music too suits the moments that they are used and helps build up the atmosphere created. The score particularly is very well composed in certain moments and really is able to amplify the intensity of a scene. The film occasionally at times uses flashbacks in order for the viewer to understand more of Ben's background and in these scenes the sound design really works well. These moments work in a way where the sound is isolated out and the score comes in a way where I myself as the viewer became almost in a light sort of trance.
In conclusion, The Fundamentals of Caring proves that Netflix can distribute a solid story. The film in many ways attempts to mimic a similar vibe to such stories as Perks of Being a Wallflower but it falls short in proving itself to be a memorable tale. Bernett's adaption doesn't necessarily break any boundaries in the industry or solidify itself as an important piece of cinema but it remains a good heartwarming story to watch in the midst of all the recent blockbusters.
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