Today has been super fucking hot and I can’t really concentrate. The only thing I want to do is lie down in a bath full of ice and just sleep until British Summer is over… so about 2 days. Still, I have a deadline looming so I’m here in front of a fucking hot laptop feeling super gross. It’s days like this that I really start to resent my shitty job. Working in a catering isn’t really my passion at the best of times but on days where I’m in a sweltering kitchen that I don’t want to be in I find it even harder to feel positive about everything. Seriously. it’s not until you get changed after a sweaty day at work and try and squeeze into a pair of super skinny jeans that you realise how fucking shitty it is to cook for a living. But I’ve always been something of a drama queen and the only thing that gets me angrier than heat is hunger.
Netflix is certainly doing everything in its power to bag itself plenty of original content to release and has been moving further down the film path for some time. However, if there’s one thing Ricky Gervais’ Special Correspondents may have taught us, there could very well be a reason why Netflix is winning the bidding with a lot of it’s stuff. The Fundamentals of Caring was bound to get crazy attention due to the fact that its the kind of feel good indie that Paul Rudd is already well associated with. The problem is, it looks exactly the same as every other feel good indie film starring a few big name stars and an ex-Disney Channel twenty-something that’s out there.
On the surface, The Fundamentals of Caring is paint by fucking numbers: grieving father Ben Benjamin (Rudd), an ex-writer, takes a job caring for Trevor (Craig Roberts), an 18 year old suffering from a rare degenerative disease and slowly learns to love himself again. It’s the same sort of story you’ve heard a thousand times before but offers a guaranteed happy, life-affirming message at the end. Trevor is a shut in and spends his days terrorising his various carers and watching news reports on famous roadside attractions that he will never visit. Until Ben convinces his mother (Jennifer Ehle) that it would be good for the boy to visit the World’s Deepest Pit. Along the way, the pair pick up a straggler in the form of Dot (Selena Gomez), a teen runaway who quickly grabs Trevor’s attention.
The trio are a strange group both in the film and in the real world but somehow everything just works. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts have great chemistry on screen even when the material given to them is just a little too cliched indie flick. They play well off each other and bring a sense of fun to the formulaic and heavy-handed narrative. Even Selena Gomez, who shocked everyone in 2012’s Spring Breakers, doesn’t feel too out of place here. Although, it’s hard to escape the idea that she’s just on a continuing journey to shed her cutesy Disney pop star image by playing sweary, grungy girls who don’t give a fuck about society or its rules. She and Roberts make as cute a couple as you could want from this kind of thing.
Really, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with The Fundamentals of Caring but it does the standard Hollywood thing of sugaring the pill. Just as John Green and co. showed us the sexy, romantic side of cancer, director and screenwriter, Rob Burnett, shows us the fun side of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. There are some attempts to show the harsh realities of Trevor’s illness but it is mostly pushed aside in favour of looking on the brighter side. Indie or not, this isn’t the place to show someone suffering from muscle degeneration. Even the source of Ben’s despair is slowly revealed to us in hazy, slow-motion flashbacks rather than as the Earth shattering moment that it would have been. This is not a film to dwell on pain but rather to teach that no matter how hard things get there is always something positive.
Which is fine, I guess. It’s Summer and we could all do with a good dose of positivity. The film does what it’s supposed to and it does it very well thanks to its main stars. It doesn’t push the boundaries or attempt to surprise its audience. Not that it needed to of course. The Fundamentals of Caring doesn’t claim to be anything more than it is and is happy to get rid of any inconvenient issue, like Trevor’s much discussed agoraphobia, when the plot needs it. But it’s okay. You know from the off where this story is headed and you’re fine happy to just go along for the ride. This isn’t the kind of film you watch to show you a gritty reality. This is the kind of film you watch to be uplifted… and it will certainly do that.