the fundamentals of caring

Director: Rob Burnett

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Year: 2016

I’m far from certain as to precisely what Netflix stood to gain through buying THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING. This is toothless, formulaic drama camouflaged by a superficial edge in the mold of comedy that fancies itself offbeat, though is indeed akin to beating off with a defectively familiar hand. Writer/director Rob Burnett, whom we shall refer to as the Goofyfoop for fear of granting him the minimal recognition he doesn’t deserve, toils through scene upon scene of the most tepid plotting you’ve witnessed this side of every river. It’s been a mere 12 hours since I endured the film, somehow sans the refuge of booze, and still yet I’m struggling to recall its finer contents. So follow along, why don’t you, as I endeavor to vaguely summarize and vexedly analyze the Goofyfoop’s second feature film.

fundamentals of caring

This is the scene where Paul Rudd tries to make the British kid eat the Slim Jim

Ben (Paul Rudd) is depressed. We understand this because he’s always sitting and frowning. Three years after the accidental death of his son, for which he’s to blame, he has opted to take a course entitled “The Fundamentals of Caregiving,” one stupid syllable beyond the film’s title and two stupid syllables short the title of the novel upon which said film is based, THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING by Jonathan Evison. The extent of this course is insufficiently captured by way of a fleeting initial montage and is hardly touched on again, which renders the whole shebang bizarrely ill-conceived. The handful of shots wherein we see Ben daydreaming through the lectures is thus as slapdash as an explanatory title card or a tacked-on line; it leaves the audience suspicious of material shamelessly cut to humor the attention spans of the common Netflix aficionado.

fundamentals of caring

And yet the scene where Paul Rudd makes the British kid eat the Slim Jim emerged unscathed

Despite the fact that Ben has no prior medical experience and ran his own son down with his car, he becomes the caregiver for the reclusive/British Trevor (Craig Roberts), a teenaged victim of severe muscular dystrophy. Trevor’s mother Elsa (Jennifer Ehle) is initially skeptical, but is a busy single parent and therefore concedes. It is no secret that Ben has assumed such responsibility as a means by which he may redeem his own paternal negligence, a truth for which Trevor relentlessly taunts him. Cue another montage, this time near-exclusively featuring Ben on ass-wiping/piss-assisting duty, which the Goofyfoop trusts will convince his audience of a burgeoning bond between caregiver and receiver, though one defined by sardonic jabs at one another’s insecurities. Eventually, Ben himself grows sick of Trevor’s daily routine (eating waffles, watching television, visiting the park for exactly one hour every week), and urges Elsa that she allow them to embark on a road trip to see the World’s Deepest Pit, an attraction Trevor has been fascinated by due to the nuanced observation that it “sounds depressing.”

Along the way, they pick up Dot (Selena Gomez), who has fled home en route to somewhere else. She wears black, smokes clove cigarettes, and says “fuck,” so Trevor falls in love with her. Together, they prod at Ben for being a “pussy” (read: old and boring), they share a fondness for Slim Jims and a distaste for their fathers, and they go on a date. It should come as no surprise, then, that their dialogue and actions are as out of touch with millennial reality as Ben is with the ability to refrain from letting his toddler be murdered by him. Eventually, the trio allows Peaches (Megan Ferguson), a pregnant woman with car trouble, to join them, thus achieving a tasteful 50/50 male-to-female character ratio.

fundamentals of caring

And to think you forgot about the disgusting homogeneity of the scene where Paul Rudd makes the British kid eat the Slim Jim

The film’s greatest offense lay amid its final 20 minutes. Not only does the World’s Deepest Pit turn out to be a staggeringly beautiful formation, a blatantly annoying metaphor for the revelation of joy through dismal circumstance, but the film climaxes in yet another montage which draws a mind-numbing parallel between the loss of life (dead Ben baby) and its rebirth (new Peaches baby). THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING is so on-the-nose that it punches through the cartilage. This, paired with its cheap Indie soundtrack and moody-in-theory, desaturated cinematography, should be more than enough to repel even those viewers who hate themselves. Shame on you, Goofyfoop. Shame on you, Netflix. Shame on you, me.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Strack Azar is a Nashville-born filmmaker who currently attends Chapman University in Orange, CA, and acts as a Crossfader guest contributor. He has never owned a dog that didn't bite people.

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