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Review: The Fundamentals of Caring

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison was one of the most uproarious experiences of the year. The book was funny and unconcerned with sentiment.

The Fundamentals of Caring, written for the screen and directed by Rob Burnett (a former Late Show staff member), should come off as uproarious, but surprisingly approaches the material as solely sentimental.

The reason for the transition, and perhaps shortening the unwieldy title, is for the audience. The story of a prick of a caregiver who is resigned to take care of a sullen, incapacitated teenager who may be suicidal doesn’t exactly suggest a funny story. Yet with Burnett’s résumé and the casting of Paul Rudd in the lead role suggest a darkly comic approach.

Instead, the new title skips over the revision (and moves for caregiving to caring) by stripping away the layers of detachment at the heart of its story, instead leading to a sort of The Blind Side situation, (“you’re changing his life”, “no, he’s changing mine”).

Rudd plays Ben, a writer by trade, who gives up writing after an unfortunate incident. His new training in caregiving leads him first to Elsa (Jennifer Ehle) and then to Trevor (Craig Roberts, from Submarine).

Rudd is usually pretty likeable, especially when putting on his smirky “can you believe this?” face. In this film, he looks shell-shocked for the majority (or even a little pained). Ehle does what she can, and is gone within the first fifteen minutes. The story is primarily about Rudd and Roberts’ road trip, and how woefully unfit Ben is to care (or caregive) for Trevor. There are not nearly enough moments of levity, (and an explicit flashback to flesh out Trevor’s condition), but to be honest, if the film consisted of Rudd and Thomas trading jokes and wisecracks and did away with any and all treacly plot devices, we would be more inclined to give a care.

Selena Gomez is perfectly fine in her role as Dot, (essentially an extended cameo). Despite looking too glamorous, Gomez provides a respite from the painfully obvious conclusion to the narrative. Funny that in a book about a writer and based on a book, (written by the comedic Burnett), the writing is ultimately its undoing. Also, save for some stilted interactions, the film is a comedy in name only. A dramedy may have been the goal, but it comes off as melodrama far too often.

The Fundamentals of Caring is now available for streaming on Netflix Canada

[star v=25]