The Fundamentals of Caring

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Fundamentals of Caring Movie Poster Image
Unforgettable, poignant dark comedy has lots of cursing.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters grow by stepping out of their physical and emotional comfort zones; while acknowledging the potential danger and humiliation, the importance of taking these kinds of risks is shown.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Trevor, unlike so many stereotyped portrayals of the disabled, emerges as a three-dimensional character, as self-aware and insecure as anyone. Ben learns and grows from his experiences, and by doing so, begins the slow and painful process of accepting the terrible tragedy of his past, and the impending divorce of his present. 

Violence
Sex

Frequent talk of sex, references to oral sex, a plate of sausage and eggs is arranged to look like a penis and testicles. 

Language

Frequent profanity, including common use of "f--k." "Bulls--t," "s--t," "p---y." A character uses the word "retarded." When talking about a woman, characters ask "would you tap her?" and say that they would "pound that s--t into the ground." 

Consumerism

Slim-Jims are upheld as being the ideal food to eat while traveling America's highways. One of the lead characters always eats Eggo Waffles. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fundamentals of Caring is a 2016 movie based on a novel of the same name. One of the best aspects to this movie is in how the disabled lead character, Trevor, is portrayed not as a helpless victim of circumstance, but as a three-dimensional, flawed, and ultimately vulnerable character, a character not simply and simplistically solely defined by his disability. That said, Trevor is very much an adolescent boy, one unafraid to express sexual yearnings, curse, and behave in an obnoxious manner that includes pretending to be having seizures or choking in order to horrify his caretakers. While certainly a poignant movie, it's also filled with dark comedy, a dry and often foul-mouthed humor that makes it best for mature teens and older. Frequent profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," and "p---y." Frequent talk of sex and references to oral sex. Issues of divorce and the losing of a child to a terrible accident might be too much for some viewers. There is also a teen runaway character, who assumes that the man asking her for a ride is a "perv." 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written byBuzzy30 February 17, 2017

Entertaining and funny

I made my 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter watch this with me (without their phones in their hands) and we all enjoyed it! The first half hour they com... Continue reading
Parent Written byRudy S. July 9, 2017

Great movie for older teens

Swearing and sexual references best saved for older teens.
Teen, 13 years old Written byToasterStroodles March 6, 2017

Fantastic movie

I can safely say that this Netflix original was one of the best films I have ever seen. Look out for sex (including talk of 'blow jobs', male anatomy,... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bythefamilybusiness March 5, 2017

Good movie with an important topic

I think this movie is appropriate to watch if you are a mature 13 year old or a 14 year old. I watched this with my mother, and the only thing making me uncomfo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ben (Paul Rudd) is a discouraged 44-year-old writer unable to come to terms with the tragic death of his child and unwilling to finalize his divorce at the start of THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING. After earning his caretaker's certificate, he finds work in the home of an expatriate British woman and her son Trevor (Craig Roberts), an obnoxiously mischievous and dry-humored teenager with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. While his mother works, Trevor keeps an unbroken routine of Eggo Waffle-eating, Travel Channel-watching, Katy Perry-lusting, and engaging in wicked sarcasm with Ben, along with the occasional prank involving faking seizures or choking. Trevor's television viewing reveals an obsession with bizarre American roadside attractions, and one day, Ben has the epiphany that he and Trevor should take a road trip together to see the "World's Deepest Pit." While Trevor's mother is initially reluctant, Ben convinces her of the trip's necessity, and Ben and Trevor's road trip begins. On the journey, they pick up an attractive and tough-talking young hitchhiker named Dot (Selena Gomez), a girl Trevor immediately has a crush on, who says she is going to Denver to start her life over again in the aftermath of her mother's death. They also pick up a kind pregnant woman named Peaches whose car has broken down. They stop off in Salt Lake City to confront Trevor's emotionally vacant father, and later, Trevor overcomes his shyness and asks Dot out on a date, which she accepts. As they get closer to "The World's Largest Pit," as Trevor has grown as a result of stepping out of the comfort zone of his drab routine, Ben must come to terms with the tragic death of his child, as well as the divorce and the divorce papers he has been avoiding. 

Is it any good?

This film manages the difficult task of being both a dark comedy and a poignant story. The balance keeps the movie from being too glib and smug due to too much of the former, and too mawkish and sentimental due to too much of the latter. As a middle-aged man in the throes of crisis, transition, and depression, Paul Rudd brings depth and nuance to his character, and as a teen boy stuck in a self-imposed routine, Craig Roberts, through the unforgettable Trevor, completely destroys the trite manner in which the disabled are so commonly portrayed in movies and television. The result is a buddy road trip movie like no other, a comedy filled with dark humor and dry sarcasm, but also a story filled with deep meaning, with so much clearly at stake for these characters. 

Just when you think The Fundamentals of Caring is on the verge of committing the all-too-common indie-movie sin of making the characters a little too hip, clever, and hyper-aware for their own good, the suffering the characters have endured for far too long comes through, and the audience realizes that the hilarious sarcastic humor isn't shoehorned in by the scriptwriter, but is instead the defense mechanisms of characters trying to keep it together during a difficult time. While this is clearly due in part to the director, Rob Burnett, credit also goes to Rudd, Roberts, and Selena Gomez, who plays a teen runaway capable of as much caustic humor as the other lead characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways in which the disabled are commonly portrayed in movies and television. How does the character Trevor in The Fundamentals of Caring completely destroy these all-too-common stereotypes? 

  • This movie is based on a book. What do you think would be the challenges in adapting a book like this into a movie? 

  • How does the dry and dark humor counterbalance the movie's themes of taking risks and the necessity of personal growth? 

Movie details

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