Please note that this is a re-post of my review from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
After a tragic loss, Ben (Paul Rudd) becomes a caregiver to Trevor (Craig Roberts), who suffers from muscular dystrophy and is resigned to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Trevor spends his time watching TV and generally being a bit of an asshole to Ben (i.e. fake choking, pretending he’s mentally disabled, etc.).
And since Trevor has never been an hour outside of his house, Ben wants to take him on a road trip the the world’s deepest pit, much to the chagrin of Trevor’s mother (Jennifer Ehle). On the way there, they pick up two strays, as it were, Dot (Selena Gomez) and Peaches (Megan Ferguson). But what better way to air out some issues than on a road trip?
“The Fundamentals of Caring” goes through the typical motions of being a road trip movie where the characters bond. Except some of the bonding has already happened and the trip only serves to help the characters help each other in more ways than one. There are a few things to like about the movie, mostly in the way the two lead characters interact with each other and how the film isn’t afraid of being what can only be considered offensive to some in terms of the issue of disability. In a sense, “Fundamentals” can be realistic because the characters, particularly Trevor, isn’t always likable.
On the other hand, “Fundamentals” tries to balance too much. For example, the introduction of the two female characters do absolutely nothing for the film and are only there to suit the needs of the two male leads. Whether it’s Ben needing to redeem himself after what happened with his son, or Trevor needing a boost of confidence by going on a sort of date with Gomez’s character, they aren’t much use for anything else, unfortunately. Gomez’s character has troubles of her own, but they’re not explored and perhaps should have just been left out entirely. So a lot of what happens between the characters around halfway through comes off as completely contrived and becomes a bit hard to swallow.
“The Fundamentals of Caring” isn’t a fantastic film, but it does have moments when the feels are out and it’s more than ready to give them to you. Is it overly heartwarming? No. It’s a road trip movie that starts off well enough but eventually becomes very forced and hard to take seriously. There are a few genuine laughs, but there are some plot turns that are tonally off and odd at times and it’s ultimately underwhelming.
Is "The Fundamentals of Caring" overly heartwarming? No. It's a road trip movie that starts off well enough but eventually becomes very forced and hard to take seriously.