TV-MA for language. It does that thing where someone is suffering from some sort of handicap, which makes people assume that they are extremely passive. Instead, that character is not only open, but is considered charming due to his caustic personality and use of the f-word. I didn't hate that, but you know what you are getting into, Dr. House.
DIRECTOR: Rob Burnett
I know how I work. I like 90% of a movie a lot. I really roll my eyes at 10% of the movie. I'm just gonna crap on it. I'm establishing that I'm my worst enemy. I know that it is far easier to destroy a film that has a very obvious weakness than to appreciate the fact that is mostly successful. This movie really works. Hopefully, I have the willpower to not give into my typical vitriol and disparage this movie because it gives me magic troll powers. (These power have nothing to do with having an adorable bottom, a jeweled navel, and incredible hair.) I apologize right now. If I lose the forest through the trees, please know that the movie was exactly what I wanted at the time and it is worth a watch. It's just not a perfect watch. (See? I'm doing it already.)
Like many of Netflix's original films, there's an issue with the fact that we don't have the communal experience with this film. This is one of those movies that might be made or broken based on the audience interactivity with the movie. Honest to Pete, this movie is very sappy, almost undeniably so. But the movie also has Paul Rudd leading the role in a very Paul Rudd fashion, so the sappiness is really tempered by the fact that the movie is a little crass. I don't think I've ever been so happy that a movie tended to be more crass. Usually, I'm in the "Don't play blue if you don't have to" camp, but the crassness really makes the movie. I don't deny that I'm a fan of characters like Sherlock Holmes or House (who are the same character!), so I tend to like the grump who is weirdly witty in every situation. Craig Roberts's Trevor is the grump in this one. I mentioned it in my MPAA section, but Trevor is the archetypal "not-letting-my-disability-get-me-down-through-being-mean." Trevor is mean to everyone, but he's very clever. The movie kind of goes out of its way to establish how clever Trevor is and this is where the movie gets a little Hallmarky.
I feel like I need to take a bit of a break from actually reviewing this movie to establish that the movie can't be given a qualifier such as "good" or "bad". Most movies probably shouldn't be oversimplified like that. However, this all comes down to taste. (Again, all movies should be looked at in this light.) This movie is meant to be emotionally manipulative. I'm usually pretty skeptical of these kinds of movies, but that's its goal. The end result is meant to produce happy tears, regardless of how these characters get there. Normally, I'm on the fence when it comes to these kinds of movies. If I'm going to be moved, I'd choose for it to be organically (coming from the guy who gets close to tears every time he watches It's a Wonderful Life.) There is nothing wrong with liking movies that are meant to generate tears. I wish I was emotionally vulnerable enough to really appreciate those movies. I think The Fundamentals of Caring was the right movie at the right time with my wife. I wanted to like it, so I did. But I also normally have a problem with characters like Trevor. Trevor is a grump who likes being a grump. He's only charming because he has an amazing script behind him giving him the perfect lines to say. But he's actually mean dude. If I met Trevor in real life, I would tell him to kiss off. Paul Rudd's Ben Benjamin (I don't think anyone really comments on this name) is a far more likable character, but his backstory is equally tear jerking. But to really close the Hallmark loop, the story is about two broken people fixing each other through a road trip. We've seen it before and we've probably seen it better. But as I established in an obnoxiously long apology, I've definitely seen it done way worse.
The thing that really sells this movie is that it is very funny. Considering that the movie lies about the realism of the moments, the movie is in no way realistic. That's fine. It sounds nitpicky, but we're talking about the nature of illusion in art. Like many road movies, there is a surreal world that we have to shut our brains off for. Coincidence and fate play too large a part, which really brings me to the worst part of this movie. I have to establish that I had no opinions on Selina Gomez before this movie. I had heard her name because I'm not typing this blog out from under a rock. I just didn't care either way. I think it's cool when people who are publicly mocked throw their talent in our faces. Every time Justin Timberlake shows up for stuff, I end up cheering because he often is the best part of whatever I'm seeing him in. The fact that Justin Bieber is learning to laugh at himself gives me hope. I know that Selina Gomez started off as a Disney Channel kid, so she has some experience acting. However, she is truly rotten in this movie. The performances by Rudd and Roberts are so good that it just seems like a crime to have those efforts hampered by such a rough performance. I don't know if the problem is entirely her fault, though. Her character is the rebel, intriguing the boy who had never talked to a girl. You've seen the archetype before. I need not give examples. The problem is that the character is so mean-spirited and selfish that I can't see what Trevor sees in her. The only reason that I know that Trevor is attracted to her is because he directly tells us. There is no real chemistry there and it makes little sense for Dot to be into Trevor. Instead, these moments, on which the story revolves, seem like they are put in the movie because the movie is due to have these moments. They are artificial and cheap and I wanted them to be great. I didn't like them together and I think it just made Trevor a weak character.
But the real chemistry in this movie was between Rudd and Roberts. Yeah, Roberts is a jerk, but Rudd has enough goodness in him to balance that out. He gives Roberts as good as he gets, which makes the dynamic interesting. But Rudd plays the part of the broken father (again, an archetype) extremely well. Rudd doesn't break new ground with the character's motivation, but he does deliver on creating an extremely sympathetic character. Considering that from moment one, it is established that Rudd and Roberts will fix each other through what should be considered an unlikely bond. I do wish that Trevor had greater consequences for some of his actions. There's a moment that Trevor takes it way too far out of selfish concern for himself and there really is a very superficial coming to terms with that action. But, again, this is the world that the movie created and it does fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Their relationship, however, does allow for some very unique emotional responses. Their tricks on each other are quite cruel and probably pretty irresponsible, but from a viewer's perspective, these jokes come across as hilarious. There are two that just tear my heart out and leave me belly laughing within moments. I have to applaud Burnett and his editing team for knowing exactly how m any beats to hit to make these jokes work because I would have cut each of them five seconds shorter and not received the emotional impact needed to process the entire scene.
I struggle to validate many of the formulaic moments in this movie. There's a lot of them. But I do have to say that the movie did dodge some of the more generic conventions that I simply knew it was going to embrace. There was one moment that I knew that I was going to roll my eyes at and I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't succumb to that easy answer. Yeah, the movie is full of easy answers and I'm not saying that it is some work of genius. But it didn't hit all of them and I guess that's kind of a win. I did say that I was going to be pretty hard on this movie despite the fact that it mostly is successful in winning me over and in achieving its goals.
It's not perfect, but it is a good watch. It was exactly what I wanted at the time and it filled that indie dramedy hole in my heart that I haven't really exposed myself to in a while. While I wish for just an ounce more vulnerability, the movie is pretty solid. Unfortunately, because it is a Netflix original film, I have the vibe that I'll never be preaching it to too many people
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.