By: Brett Slaughenhaupt – Staff Writer
Quippy dialogue and muted gray tones do not a good film make. The Fundamentals of Caring doesn’t care about making a realistic film so much as making the hip, quirky film that “Millennials today seem to like.” Even though it is based on a book (of which, I admit I have not read), it feels more like the result of a script written by a focus group who thinks The Fault in Our Stars and Juno are what real teens are like. Nothing about this film feels like it would happen in real life, which would be fine if they were going for an artsy take, à la Wes Anderson or the like. Instead, it misses the mark harder than I would miss making a three-pointer, which is quite the feat.
Perpetually dewy-eyed Ben (Paul Rudd) is hired on as the new caretaker of complicated angsty teen Trevor (Craig Roberts) who suffers from a disease that is named – muscular dystrophy – but not given any specificity to matter beyond: “this kid may die” and “this kid is going to change everyone’s perspective on life.” A road trip ensues, where the characters meet Dot (Selena Gomez trying her hardest with basically a nothing character) and Peaches (Megan Ferguson, doing the same as Selena). Both characters are there to push along the plot rather than to be real, complex characters.
Any and all connection we feel to the story is due to the actors and not the writing. Every twist and emotional beats can be seen coming from miles away because we’ve seen them in just about every other film made before this one. However, it remains slightly endearing, squarely because the actors have just enough personality and chemistry with one another to make us interested in the end goal of public urination (seriously).
Clocking in at 97 minutes, this film really isn’t too much of a chore to get through. With its lack of any bite or offense, it makes the perfect content when you want something to play in the background and then completely ignore. If the film doesn’t care enough to try anything new creatively, why should you care enough to watch it?
Films of this genre and content that more successfully dig into the themes this film touches on includes: Ordinary People, Rabbit Hole, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Graduate, Let the Right One In, and many more. Don’t settle for below average when you have content of a higher grade available at your fingertips.