MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
On Netflix Streaming
Rated TV-MA. (If this had been put up for review, the MPAA would likely have rated this R for language and sexual themes.)
Directed by Rob Burnett. Starring Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez.
First of all, let me share a disclaimer: The Fundamentals of Caring can best be described as a potty mouth Hallmark Channel movie.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hallmark knows how to make inspiring feel-good films that embody a positive worldview filled with hope, compassion, redemption and faith. But not every person will seek out values-based entertainment, especially in the wider marketplace of entertainment choices. Here’s an alternative for them.
The Fundamentals of Caring (based on the novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison) combines the story of the dedicated caregiver who breaks through the rough surface of an embittered paraplegic (see this year’s Me Before You) with an intergenerational bromance and a road trip.
The film is helped immensely by the presence of Paul Rudd as Ben, a retired writer and recently estranged husband going through grief over a recent loss. Ben decides to repurpose himself as a caregiver as a way of dealing with his sudden life changes. During his training period Ben learns the acronym ALOHA as shorthand for an appropriate way to communicate with his client: Ask, Listen, Observe, Help, Ask Again. Ben’s first client is Trevor, an 18-year old man (Craig Roberts) living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Trevor has been housebound with a loving yet overprotective mother (Jennifer Ehle). Ben is told that Trevor’s life expectancy is limited.
Well, that’s a fairly calculated and cliché setup for a film, and The Fundamentals of Caring isn’t going to walk too far astray from its anticipated course. Trevor has gone through his share of caregivers and initially tries to shock Ben into quitting on the first day. But Ben is able to parry the insults from Trevor and prepared to challenge him to break away from his videogame and couch potato existence and discover what it means to really live. Ben observes that Trevor has a fascination with quirky tourist landmarks; from that starting point a road trip is planned and initiated.
Because the film is determined to push back against sentimentality, there is much to enjoy and appreciate. The relationship between Ben and Trevor highlights their mutual insecurities and need for one another’s testings. Other characters that they meet on their road trip provide additional opportunities for caring.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the kindness that is shown to the king when “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) In its own quirky, snarky way The Fundamentals of Caring gives us an elementary lesson about the opportunities every day to grow into better persons, modeling Christ-like love by learning to care for the needs of others.
Four halos: There’s basic goodness and compassion in this predictable and entertaining story of redemption and companionship.
Two pitchforks: There’s also a lot of casual and pervasive heavy swearing, some snide comments, as well as provocative talk about imagined sexual activity.
Do you have comments about this movie or movie review? E-mail your comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
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