2015, R, 105 min. Directed by Andrew Bujalski. Starring Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Tishuan Scott, Constance Zimmer, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 29, 2015
A schlubby guy named Danny (Corrigan) wanders into an Austin gym, looking for a trainer. The gym owner – Trevor (Pearce, a stealthy heart-bruiser), who’s ripped and religious about his whole-body holistic mission – asks Danny what his goal is. Danny says he wants to be able to take a punch: "I just want to be able to take it without falling down, or puking, or bleeding … uh, too much." Danny's ambition is precise, and the moment is pretty much comic perfection. It also sounds an early signal to audiences: Adjust your expectations – be okay with sustaining a punch, not delivering it – and you'll be rewarded in kind.
Surely the most unconventional romantic comedy of the summer, Results isn't anti-plot; it just moves in weird ways. How it all unfolds is part of the film's allure, so let's keep the plot synopsis vague. Danny is assigned a personal trainer, Kat (Smulders, irresistibly prickly), and is fast transfixed by her tight butt. Kat has a complicated history with her boss, Trevor. Trevor steps in when he thinks Danny has crossed a line with Kat. Things get weird. (Weird is pretty much Results' watchword.) A sort-of love triangle emerges, but one that avoids pinging the sing-song obvious tones of the genre.
Austin writer/director Andrew Bujalski chewed over the twentysomething experience in his first three films – Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation, and Beeswax, a seminal run in the independent film movement of the Aughts. Results is absorbed with essentially the same things – the frustrations of work and romance – but this time Bujalski is working with adults, and adult concerns. (Notably, though, there are discrepancies in age here that are acknowledged, but largely unexplored, most especially in its coda, which made my face scrunch.) In between, Bujalski made the cheeky experimental film, Computer Chess – a formal outlier, yes – but his antennae throughout have been tugged tall to catch a certain same frequency: the microexpression, the verbal ah-um, the side-eye to a tight butt as it rolls its way seductively along an exercise ball.
I missed the granular warmth of Bujalski’s early films, which were shot on Super-16, but the digital camera’s crisp, frank effect is on point for Results’ ancillary portrait of Austin, en medias boom. (The colors pop, mirroring a town verily art-directing itself to death.) The fine grain, instead, can be found in the characterizations. Bujalski is hyper-attuned to the shape of a person that emerges when he or she is alone, and how that shape bends and sturdies in the company of someone else. It took a second watch for me to grasp how richly embedded the film is with character detail, in action and dialogue, and in the way it articulates the body and mind, moving at different speeds. More plainly: It took me two viewings to figure out how much I liked the movie. (Quite a lot, it turns out.) That might not sound like a full-bodied recommendation, but why not take a cue from the film’s surprisingly lovable gym rats: Results don’t happen overnight, you know.
See “The Contender,” May 29, for an interview with Andrew Bujalski.