The Fundamentals of Caring

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Life is an intricate composition of highs and lows. That’s just a nice way of saying that it’s an endless stream of shit between happy points. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have sayings like, “If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else,” or, “It’s always something,”. Then, every so often, we are rewarded for the woeful melancholy with moments of unadulterated joy. Those moments are the ones that we stick around for.

The Fundamentals of Caring is a flawless encapsulation of that principle. Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd) has just become a registered caregiver through a six-week program. Before giving care to another, we must first take care of ourselves. This is an idea that Ben — like so many of us — doesn’t do so well.

Nonetheless, he lands his first gig working for Elsa Conklin (Jennifer Ehle) and her 18-year-old son Trevor (Craig Roberts). Trevor was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at the age of three, is confined to a motorized chair, and will be lucky if he makes it to 30.

Trevor Conklin is handsome and cool. He’s also a bit of a shit.

He’s bawdy, vulgar, and awfully brazen for someone who can’t run away. He’s also got an affinity for roadside attractions like Rufus, The World’s Biggest Bovine or a two-story outhouse. One in particular is marked by a big, sparkly red star on his map; The World’s Deepest Pit. And of course, he loves it because of how depressing it sounds.

When Ben suggests embarking on a road trip to see some of these in person, Elsa’s reluctance dissipates at the sight of that gentle, reassuring Paul Rudd gaze/half-smile and she bids Trevor farewell so that he can go see a giant hole in the earth.

Ben pushes Trevor out of his comfort zone several times. First, offering him a Slim Jim or, “bite of the James”, and later, making him ask a cute young hitchhiker that he’s got his eye on — with a mouth like a sailor — named Dot (Selena Gomez) to join their pilgrimage.

Together the three of them become four when they pick up a pregnant woman named Peaches (Megan Ferguson). They are, as Trevor states, a taxicab for America. But as we all know, when everything seems to be going just fine, something is just past the horizon waiting to fuck it all up. Ben and Trevor are soon forced to face their demons and try to make it out with minor bumps and bruises.

Paul Rudd is always charming and lovely, but he is especially so in this film. As someone who typically plays the funny guy, his ability to bring emotion to life on-screen is some kind of magic.

Craig Roberts is a Welsh actor and was brand new to me in Fundamentals. He’s got the thing. Something intangible that cannot be forged. Like Rudd, he was born to do this, which gives them out-of-this-world chemistry on-screen.

Oh, hey, Selena Gomez! I’d seen Gomez in Spring Breakers and she was alright, but that movie was just bad. So you can hardly blame her. That said, she was fantastic! Genuine, funny, and clearly in competition with Deadpool for F-bombs dropped in a single feature film.

The entire cast nailed it. This is one of those movies you watch and can’t picture anyone else in those roles. It had to be them.

This movie is a beacon of hope for anyone who has ever experienced hardship. It’s a hand reaching out into the darkness to grab onto. Someone to pick you up, dust you off, and tell everything’s going to be okay. Because life really does have a way of working out, even when things seem to be damaged beyond repair.

One of the best of the year to be sure, The Fundamentals of Caring is on Netflix right now. Watch it with a Slim Jim. If you haven’t had one, it’s the worst mistake of your life.

 

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