Netflix threw up this suggestion for weeks before I took the bait and watched this movie. Somehow, road trip stories do not appeal to me, because they seem too literal in the interpretation of a journey. Plus, I detest actual road trips; unless they are under very specific (and rare) circumstances.
I’ll be honest; I decided to watch this movie because of Paul Rudd. I have had a major crush on him since Clueless (who hasn’t?), which was only intensified by Friends, and was only slighted dented by This is 40. And when Ant-man came out? Crush maxxed out.
The first blurb I read said that it was about a writer stuck in the past and a young shut-in, who discover friendship on a road trip. That sounded like the beginning, end, and middle of the story. I wondered what was left to discover.
Story: Ben (Paul Rudd) is a writer, who decides to become a caregiver. After his course, his first assignment is for a teenager suffering from muscular dystrophy, Trevor (Craig Roberts). The teen is irascible and fond of awful practical jokes, and makes Ben’s job quite difficult.
During the course of Ben’s caretaking, Trevor expresses huge fascination for the roadside attractions abounding in the US. Ben suggests that he go visit some of them, and after an initial reluctance, they go.
The trip is eventful, and each event deepens the understanding and friendship between the two.
Review: There are no surprises in The Fundamentals of Caring. The story is made with great sensitivity, without waking on eggshells around a disabled person. Some of the elements are beautiful, and some profoundly sad. There are equal doses of almost every emotion, and the characters are eminently relatable, and not picture-perfect.
Story: The story is paced well, and has its share of interesting points. The narrative doesn’t become flat, and the editing carries away top honours for that. Since it is set firmly in the present, the past unfolds slowly in a very effective way. This is a drama, and not a thriller, so there are no surprises – which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Characters: Trevor is in a wheelchair, but he is a jerk. He uses his disability to make people uncomfortable, and manipulates them. His character is very strong, and thankfully not saccharine sweet. Ben has spirit too, but it appears to be crushed. Trevor’s jibes do a lot to penetrate the miasma that Ben chooses to envelop himself in, sometimes shocking him back to normal. Elsa, Trevor’s mother, (Jennifer Ehle) is not a long-suffering mother, but a strong woman who has accepted her life, and chosen to get on with it. The characters are amazing.
Acting: Superb acting on all fronts. Trevor’s role seems to be the most challenging, as he is suffering from a debilitating disease. He copes with the disease, and sometimes flounders under it. The rapidly fluctuating reactions of Craig Roberts is a beautiful thing to watch. Paul Rudd is incredible too. You can see the cogs turning in his character’s mind, and the mental transformation he portrays is sublime.
What I liked: Everything.
What I disliked: Nothing.
A must-watch movie: for the reality without grittiness, for the likeability without the overt sweetness, for the superlative acting, and most importantly for the sensitivity without condescension.