What will your second act look like? Many people have to figure out how to pivot their lives in the face of some external force or forces, be it the loss of a loved one, changes in careers or anything else. We too often define ourselves by a particular set of circumstances – job, relationships and so on – and when that shifts we can be at a loss to figure out who we are, much less what to do next. Some people make minor changes, others go all in and do something wildly different than what came before, either out of financial necessity or simply to shake up their lives and get out
The new Netflix original movie is about just such a shift. The Fundamentals of Caring is about Ben (Paul Rudd), a guy who’s going through a lot of personal issues, including a protracted divorce that he just can’t pull the trigger on finalizing. Taking on a new role, he becomes an in-house caregiver, which is where he meets Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young man with MS. Eventually Ben shakes Trevor out of his isolation and the two embark on a cross-country trip to see some of America’s lamest attractions and monuments. It’s while on that trip they meet Dot (Selena Gomez), a runaway who winds up connecting with Trevor, completing an unlikely trio.
Just one poster and it’s pretty basic. The three main characters are all here, with Trevor facing the camera but looking away and Dot and Ben on either side looking in other directions as well. The movie’s Sundance credentials are touted at the top and below the title we get copy telling us “Caring is a funny thing,” which tells us this is at least kind of a comedy. The only other information here is the release date, which is standard for Netflix releases.
The first trailer opens up as Ben begins working with Trevor, a job he doesn’t seem thrilled about but is embarking on nonetheless. Eventually Trevor convinces Ben to take him on a road trip to the lamest attractions in the country, something Trevor’s mother isn’t thrilled about but which she eventually relents on. Along the way they pick up Dot, a hitchhiker and Ben soon decides to go visit his father, who abandoned him long ago. We see that Ben is also going through a protracted divorce that he’s not ready to pull the trigger on.
The trailer has lots of heart – both the relationship between Ben and Trevor and between Trevor and Dot – and lots of laughs. It looks very much like a “light” kind of indie movie but it cruises by because of Rudd’s charm and a script that seems both emotional and funny. And Gomez looks surprisingly good here, like she might actually form the emotional core of the movie.
Another trailer was released just a few days before the movie came out. It starts out roughly the same, with Trevor meeting his new caregiver and being nudged to get out of the house and see something. They decide to hit the road and meet Dot, who joins them on their trip.
It’s a cute trailer but doesn’t really offer anything new in the way of story or character development. Still, if you were charmed by the first one this will work for you as well. I get the feeling the movie itself is more down-to-earth and less wacky than how it’s presented here, but we’ll see.
Online and Social
No official site, which is part and parcel for Netflix original movies. This one did get occasional support on Facebook, but that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A bunch of online ads were run that used the key art, with some units also featuring full-motion video that pulled parts of the trailers.
Media and Publicity
While it wasn’t heralded as anything hugely innovate, the buzz and word-of-mouth generated by the movie’s debut at Sundance 2016 was positive, calling out the charming performances by the three leads. Before it even had a chance to debut, though, it was picked up by Netflix for distribution, eventually setting a late June release date.
Gomez hit the late night shows, including doing “Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden. Outside of that most of the press generated was in response to trailers, clips and other marketing material releases.
As with most Netflix original movies, there isn’t a big push here. The poster is pretty basic, there’s no website and no substantial press push to speak of. So it relies on, in this case, the trailers and whatever residual word-of-mouth was lingering from the festival screenings earlier this year. That’s not a lot and certainly doesn’t pull the kind of awareness the massive campaign for Captain America: Civil War or something of that ilk would, but that’s alright. The goal of these campaigns is to either keep current subscribers interested or to lure in new subscribers with the promise of something they won’t be able to see elsewhere.
In terms of the movie itself, the campaign sells a gentle, mildly amusing indie movie that would have fit in perfectly at theaters in 1995 but which now is capable of flying totally under some people’s radars. Rudd looks like he gives a touching, comedy-twinged but not heavy performance and Roberts of course seems to be pulling on all the heartstrings. If you like this kind of human story about troubled but basically decent characters, this will be right up your alley.