Published Jun 23, 2016The most notable thing to come out of this year's Sundance wasn't necessarily an individual movie, or movies, but two companies who managed to buy up a large chunk of them: Netflix and Amazon. The streaming giants seemed to be staking a claim at the 2016 festival; each acquired six titles.
The first of Netflix's February acquisitions to get out of the gate is Rob Burnett's The Fundamentals of Caring, and the dramedy, at least on its surface, has all the components they seem to like in their originals: a charming and recognizable actor whose titles have had success on the streaming service (Paul Rudd, star of the Wet Hot American Summer franchise and, more recently, Marvel's Ant-Man), a young star (singer/actress Selena Gomez) and a heaping spoonful of quirkiness to spice things up (Submarine's Craig Roberts).
Nestled in a dimly lit theatre amongst indie cinema's elite, The Fundamentals of Caring probably seemed like a winning combination. In reality, it's closer to the myriad titles one aimlessly scrolls past before selecting one out of laziness on a Friday night in: it does the trick for the time being, but it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression (outside of one glorious pissing scene, in this case).
Based on a 2012 novel by Jonathan Evison, the film stars Rudd as a divorcee named Ben who takes up caregiving following the tragic loss of his son. His first job is with Trevor (Roberts), a smart-alecky 18-year-old British boy suffering from MS. Outside of waffles and sausages, his only loves are ample-breasted newscasters and the tacky American roadside attractions they usually document on morning television: seemingly bottomless pits; really big cows; that kind of thing.
Sad that Trevor's not living his life to its fullest extent, Ben decides to take him on a road trip — a classic subgenre in American cinema — and show him all the spots he could never see alone. They pick up a foul-mouthed hitchhiker along the way (Gomez); together, they learn to move past and accept their mistakes and shortcomings.
For a film with such a sappy concept, The Fundamentals of Caring isn't explicitly sentimental (Roberts' character is far too sardonic to make anything emotional stick). For the most part, it's just purely middle of the road; it's accessible (not surprising, considering the guy who did this also helped create Ed), but it's hard not to feel like The Fundamentals of Caring could, like its protagonists, benefit from taking a few more risks.