Prediction: Near the end of 2014 we will see a plucky, darkly comedic movie produced about a sadness-stunted 39-year-old former house husband whose children have died under his watch and whose wife has left him in the emotional aftermath and whose softball swing is failing him. With little money and things like Parade Float Painter on his resume, Benjamin Benjamin will take a course in caregiving and immediately land a job working with Trev, a 19-year-old video game aficionado twisted with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
This movie, based on Jonathan Evison’s so-cute novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving will probably do for soundtracks what “Garden State” did. And, fingers crossed, here’s hoping it gives a young actor with MD the spotlight.
This is one of those novels that plays out in Hipstamatic in your head as you read. Benjamin Benjamin is bumbling along, still second-guessing every second of the day Piper and Jodi died tragically and unwilling to sign the official paperwork and let his wife fly free with her new NPR-loving boyfriend. He struggles at first to find common ground with his employer, but eventually they settle into a routine that includes waffles for breakfast, lots of The Weather Channel, and an on-going recitation of funny-named sexual acts, a running gag that sounds like something Chuck Palahniuk would cook up. They also begin a project identifying quirky road-side attractions and color-coding them with push pins on a giant map.
After dissing his deadbeat dad, who flies into town and brings a KFC peace token to his doorstep, Trev decides that maybe he and Ben Benjamin should take a road trip to visit him. The trip introduces them to a handful of quirky characters: Dot, a teenaged punk-ish runaway who forms an immediate rapport with Trev, the super-pregnant Peaches and her good intentioned, bad idea boyfriend Elton, and whoever that monster is trailing them in the Skylark.
There are all sorts of little nuggets of funny in a book that could have become really emotionally manipulative. These characters are all total charmers: Ben is such a great portrait of Gen-X as it approaches middle age, right down to the penning of a poem for a near-stranger, a Trapeze Artist he dates for like 30 seconds; Trev, and his foul-mouthed bravado in a world where he’s had limited experiences and is set on a rigid daily schedule; and dear Dot, a bad-ass young woman who immediately forges exactly the kind of friendship Trev needs. Plus, the scenes between Ben and Trev, specifically when Ben is handling duties like wiping and bathing, are very tender and loving.