Upstream: The Fundamentals of Caring on Netflix

Fundamentals of Caring is a film written and directed by Rob Burnett, known primarily for his work as executive producer for the Letterman Show. Based on the 2012 novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. It Stars Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, Anchor Man) Craig Roberts, and Selena Gomez, the film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 29, 2016, and was released on Netflix the same year.

I clearly missed this movie during it’s initial release and it just popped up in my potentials on Netflix. I’m really glad a took a chance and gave it a watch. It is clearly an indie film and some people might find it a bit too trite and self aware, but I really enjoyed the dark humor and thought it was a good story worth telling. Paul Rudd plays Ben, a retired (or just tired) writer who needed a new job and so took a six week course to become a certified caregiver. While still recovering from losing his son and an impending divorce he needs a change of pace. His first opportunity for a job is for Elsa (Jennifer Ehle from Robo Cop and MI-5) and her son Trevor who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Elsa is unsure if Ben is cut out for the task, this being his first job as a caregiver, but after Trevor gives him the business and Ben rolls with it, she hires him. Now this generally isn’t the type of movie we cover here, we tend to stick to genre style offerings, but given that Rudd is Ant-Man and there is a surprise cameo from another Marvel alum (that I won’t spoil) I felt this one deserved a review. As I said, the off beat humor is right up my alley, in fact the no apologies and no quarter given exchanges between Ben and Trevor sold me on the whole story. Too many times movies tip toe around characters with challenges or milk them for purely sentimental reasons. It was nice to see a more real life take on a character, who just happens to have DMD. This is a road trip movie, but it isn’t afraid to break the mold and doesn’t take the more expected path.

The production values were tight, even given the indie budget, but as Writer/Director Rob Burnett said “Once you get Paul Rudd you’ve got a movie.” I was also pleasantly surprised by Selena Gomez’s performance as Dot, a runaway/wrong side of tracks kind of girl. She hit just the right balance for her character and wasn’t predictable with her delivery which you see far too often with that type of role. If you are a fan of movies like Garden State or The Station Agent and can take your humor black, then this movie is right for you.

“Care for a bite of the James?”
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