The Fundamentals of Caring (2016): Road Trip (Review)

Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Megan Ferguson, Gomez

The Fundamentals of Caring is yet another 2016 feel good film with a plucky young person overcoming a horrific condition. In this case Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  While it is all too easy to write this effort off with an unhealthy dose of cynicism, like some critics on some sites (Like, cough, cough; The LA Times.), this road trip film does deliver.

It is not just the presence of “Mr. Popular” Paul Rudd, although this does help, but the chemistry between Rudd and Welsh actor Craig Roberts seals the deal here. Rudd can, of course carry a film himself, but this odd couple pairing actually works.  

Roberts is an accomplished comic actor who has excellent timing. Just check out his other work, which includes some straight roles. (Specifically check out Submarine, a romantic dramedy which was released in 2011.) His interaction will all the principles in this film was spot on.

The real surprise here was Selena Gomez. Her role as the hitchhiking Dot was natural and believable.  The paring of veteran actor Bobby Cannavale with Gomez was perfect. Rudd gave the type of spot on performance one expects. 

The story, taken from the book “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” by Jonathan Evison was adapted and directed by Rob Burnett. It stars Rudd, Roberts, Gomez and Cannavale along with Megan Ferguson as Peaches and Jennifer Ehle  as Trevor’s mum, Elisa. 

Kudos to Ehle for doing a believable English accent (based on the character living in the USA long enough to “soften” it considerably) it was a surprise to see she hails from the southern states.

Rudd is Ben. A writer who has suffered a devastating loss in his life. Traumatized, he takes carer classes and changes his career and immediate goals. He meets Elisa and her son Trevor (Roberts). Trev has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is in a motorized wheelchair. The 18 year-old has a set routine and a wicked sense of humor. We learn that he does not keep carers very long.

Ben is slightly pedantic and a little too serious. Trevor loves practical jokes and sarcastic jabs.  This odd couple pairing works well and eventually both will change as a result of their closeness and daily interactions with one another.

Dot (Gomez) is heading to Denver and bumps into the two men as they go visiting the lamest tourist attractions on the map.  Along their travels they run into a very pregnant Peaches (Ferguson) who completes this little merry band of travelers.

To be fair, The Fundamentals of Caring feels like another film influenced by The Theory of Everything or the more recent Me Before You. But what is wrong with that?  This film, for all its adult language and a couple of gags that were adult in nature,  is a feel good film. A road trip where we laugh at the antics of these two disparate individuals.

Burnett does his job well, as do the talented cast, and the finished product makes you laugh and cry.  A number of critics were underwhelmed by the film and that is a shame. The combination of silly tourist traps (The World’s Biggest  Bovine for instance) is amusing on its own, add the comic jabbing between Rudd and Ferguson to this and it becomes comedy and not just a pale copy of other films.

Feeling a little like screen legend Kirk Douglas* from The Ragman’s Son,  “I liked it.”

*In the book, Douglas chooses a wine that the more expert wine connoisseurs demanded be taken away. As the waiter reached for Kirk’s wineglass the three time Oscar nominee  put his hand on it. Douglas then tells the reader, “I liked it.” 

The Fundamentals of Caring may feel a little formulaic but it works well. This is down to the cast and a script that delivers as many chuckles as belly laughs.  Burnett runs the film with a deft hand and never bludgeons the audience with the disease.  He also builds on Ben’s personal tragedy slowly and the reveal  works well because of this.

Airing on Netflix from today, the film is a cracking 4.5 star offering that will make the viewer laugh, giggle, chuckle and tear up a little bit if not outright cry.  Brilliant stuff and well worth a look or two. Check it out.

SNL: Ronda Rousey, Selena Gomez & Justin Bieber

Saturday Night Live, aka SNL, featured Ronda Rousey and muical guest Selena Gomez (who also took part in the “Bland Guy” skit), along with Kate McKinnon doing her brilliant Justin Bieber, and Tina Fey reprised her spot on impression of Sarah Palin.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41

Saturday Night Live, aka SNL, featured Ronda Rousey and muical guest Selena Gomez (who also took part in the “Bland Guy” skit), along with Kate McKinnon doing her  brilliant Justin Bieber, and Tina Fey reprised her spot on impression of Sarah Palin. Despite a fairly good open, with the Palin/Trumbo double act, episode 1694 had more misses than hits.  Even the studio audience, who braved a blizzard to attend, seemed more bemused than amused.

Once the political mickey-take was over, Rousey began her monologue which needed all the help it could get. While Ronda is a personal favorite, her open was almost painful to watch as the cast worked overtime to make it funny.

Missed Opportunity:

So. Selena Gomez is the musical guest on SNL.  Kate McKinnon does a wicked good impression of Gomez’s old flame Justin Bieber.  During Rousey’s painful to watch open, Bieber is trotted out (and slapped making this bit the best part of the monologue, hands down) and then exits before Gomez is introduced for a mini-musical number. Why, oh why, could there not have been a McKinnon/Bieber and Gomez moment during the open?  Too soon? Too late? Answers on a postcard please, or in comments below…

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Best bit of Ronda’s monologue; The Bieber smackdown…

The monologue was followed by a brilliant satirical sketch where the “White-Oscars” and the “Black Boycott” took “best in show” for comedy.  A number of African-American themed films were trotted out for nominations and in each case it was the white performer in each film that got the nod.

As the film’s were listed, each caucasian actor’s role got smaller, and more insignificant, for each “movie” (One actor being nominated for “unknown male voice on phone.”) By the end of the skit, all of the non-African-American nominees had won.  SNL at it’s topical best. Sadly, the rest of the episode was not as funny, or spot on.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
The Color White…Or possibly a Reservoir Dogs reunion…

The next skit was the BAMM (Bullies Against Mixed Martial Arts, which should have been BAMMA surely?) and the whole thing had a Carrie-ish slant. While Ronda was “Carrie” there was no pig’s blood moment and the only destruction was that of the main bully’s face (Vanessa Bayer). It was amusing in a very limited way.

Next up was “Bland Guy” (a spoof on The Bachelor) another “miss” for all intents and purposes. While a number of female cast members, and Rousey, plopped on a bench next to “Bland Guy” Beck Bennett, the gags ran from okay to tepid.  One of  the best gags of the set utilized the very much underused and stunning Sasheer Zamata,  and made what seemed to be another reference to the Oscars. Zamata sits down and Beck’s character asks who she is:

“I’m the black one…”

The best part of the whole sketch had musical guest Selena Gomez showing up and making a  joke about being conceived during the second season of the 25 year-old show.  “Bland Guy” immediately choses the young woman after she reveals who she is.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
I’ll take this one…

This sketch served as an intro to Gomez’ first musical number and armed with a slit dress and sexy demeanor, the singer proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that she is all grown up.  Sultry and sexy, the singer has easily moved from teen performer to impress those old enough that acne is no longer an issue.

Other comedic misfires included the party invitation skit which felt completely off and a bit like an attempt to recreate the “Wild and Crazy Guys” persona of Steve Martin and Martin Short, but without the “European”  or comic flair.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Clear comedic miss…

The last three skits; a superhero one, where each “hero” demands their introduction time while the city is destroyed and each character’s superpowers diminish in importance/relevance, and a teen boy whose sexual exploits with two teachers has his day in court, were fairly tame and also misses. The town hall meeting sketch also felt flat and uninspired.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Close but no cigar…

Perhaps the one skit that made the audience, who braved the winter storm to attend the live show, fairly uncomfortable was the one with Pete Davidson as the teenager who was “seduced” by two teachers.  The jokes took a long time to reach the audience and in terms of taste, this one was quite probably a bit too close to the bone for the studio viewers.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Questionable skit…

Selena Gomez ended  the show with another sexy number, both costume-wise and song-wise.  Sadly, Tina Fey turning up and doing her “Palen” was not enough to save this episode.  Kudos for the Oscar sketch though and major points for having Gomez sing. It is a shame that they did not allow for a McKinnon “Bieber” face-off with Selena though…

“Update” kudos to Colin Jost for his Sarah Palin dig:

“Either that or she saw an open microphone and decided to say all  the words she knew in random order…”

Further kudos to “co-host” Michael Che with his Oscar joke:

“Boycott is a very strong word for not attending a party you were never invited to…”

Guest host Ronda Rousey lost something in translation, as the guest of SNL,  but mad props to the world’s most beautiful fighter who gave it her best shot.

 

 

Taylor Swift Dresses Down to Be on Tonight Show (Video)

Taylor Swift Dresses Down to Be on Tonight Show (Video)

Taylor Swift is a lot of things, beautiful, talented, a singer who rules the charts and whose fans adore her, she is now proving that she might just have a talent for comedy when she dressed down to be on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. The 24 year-old singer is playing dressup, or down, to appear on the comedy sketch “teen show” EW! and she’ll be joining the ranks of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron who have already shown up on the “program.”

Mirtha Michelle Exclusive Interview and Review of ‘Letters, To The Men I Have Loved’

Mirtha Michelle Exclusive Interview and Review of ‘Letters, To The Men I Have Loved’

Mirtha Michelle, actress and author of Letters, To The Men I Have Loved agreed to give the Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV) an exclusive interview and to donate one of her books to be given away to a lucky reader, Michael Smith reviews the book and had the privilege of talking to Mirtha about her letters and poetry, amongst other things.

Selena Gomez vs Demi Lovato Another one Bites the Dust

Selena Gomez vs Demi Lovato Another one Bites the Dust

Like an addict who cannot keep away from drugs, Selena Gomez is just incapable of turning away from the mess that is Justin Bieber and now it’s Gomez vs Demi Lovato as another one bites the dust. Another one as in one more gal pal of the 21 year-old performer has fallen by the wayside as Selena refuses to leave the bad boy of bubble gum pop alone.