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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."
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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?
- On DVD or streaming: January 29, 2016
- Cast: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez
- Director: Rob Burnett
- Studio: Worldwide Pants
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Compassion, Perseverance
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 18, 2020
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