The analysis of paralysis is nothing new to cinema, and the path taken here has a very well-trodden access ramp laid out by numerous predecessors, with the untouchable French classic Intouchables a clear influence. Like Me Before You before it, The Fundamentals of Caring places an inexperienced caregiver with a young and abrasive charge; it’s the carer’s first client (again) and the initial introduction involves fake moaning to play up the disability (again).
The twist on the genre, which is indicative of the movie’s drollness, is that our leads set out on the “lamest” (their words) road trip by way of bucket list, shot with a sombre colour palette. That the strongest running joke flowing through the film posits the liberation of upright urination as the embodiment of “living the dream” does not, however, make The Fundamentals of Caring a gross-out comedy – far from it.
This film is a six-parter but fundamentally a two-hander; the strengths of the supporting cast – most valuably Selena Gomez as the rebellious but encouraging love interest for Roberts’ teenage dreams – would be meaningless without the matching of Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts, funny guys with quality banter and patter. Rudd is on top form as the sincere Ben, in one of his more serious recent roles, but his wry, deadpan comic delivery is also in full force. Roberts too takes to his chair and disabilities with a believable and earnest performance, going toe-to-toe with Rudd with dry wit.
In making a facsimile of finer forerunners, The Fundamentals of Caring sometimes feels clumsy with two left feet. But the central relationship between Rudd and Roberts shines through, their sardonic senses of humour playing to the strength of a film which cares, but doesn’t care too much, about being serious.
CAST: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Ehle
DIRECTOR: Rob Burnett
WRITERS: Rob Burnett (screenplay), Jonathan Evison (novel)
SYNOPSIS: A man suffering an incredible amount of loss enrolls in a class about caregiving that changes his perspective on life.