Starring: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson, Bobby Cannavale
Directed By: Rob Burnett
Ok, so maybe this film is full of a lot of cliches. But, cliches can work. Sometimes, they work quite well. I’d say this is a good example of how to properly use cliches, if there was ever a good time to use them. We’ve seen this film before, a dozen times, but we haven’t seen this film yet with Paul Rudd, and he was born to play this role. It might just be his best performance of his entire career.
It’s the plot you already know and love so well. Breaking it down simplistically, it’s a story of redemption and healing for two broken people, an odd couple brought together by circumstance, and then you throw a road trip into the mix. Oh, and one of them is handicapped, and the other lost his son. I’m not praising this film for its originality, because it clearly has none. There’s even the ‘hooker with a heart of gold’, except she’s not a hooker, but she’s filling that basic role in finding something to love in the broken men, and showing that even with a rough exterior you can be sweet on the inside.
Even with all of that absurd level of “been there done that” I still loved this film. It’s still the best damn film I’ve seen this year, and I’d stand up in front of a firing squad and shout that. Paul Rudd has matured so much over the years, that giving him this role was the perfect marriage of who he was as an actor and who he’s set to become. I think this is his best performance, but I also think we have yet to see his best performance. I think The Fundamentals Of Caring should open up a whole new set of doors for him and roles he can be cast in. He brings so much heart and warmth, without completely losing his trademark sarcasm and affability.
He doesn’t carry the film either. Craig Roberts is exceptional, refusing to play completely into stereotypes as the jaded patient. It’s close to being a performance we’ve seen before, but something about Roberts makes it feel fresh. The rest of the supporting cast all play their parts well, even if Cannavale is ultimately underused.
Director/writer Rob Burnett gets no extra props here, because he wrote a story so completely unoriginal that it demanded exceptional direction to make it work. So while I fault him for the script, he ultimately crafted a finished product from that script that works well, even if a lot of it is due to Rudd and Roberts.
I hope Netflix did a qualifying run for this in theatres, because I’d love for Paul Rudd to be in the Best Actor discussion at least. I know he won’t be nominated, but it’s time for us to start taking him seriously as an actor. Really good work. I’ll definitely be remembering this at the end of the year. Good job, Netflix. You’ve redeemed yourselves for Special Correspondents. My first A of 2016.
FINAL GRADE: A