Director: Andrew Bujalski
Stars: Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce
4 (out of 5) Globes
The opening credits of Andrew Bujalski’s “Results” look like nothing he’s ever done before. In a way it, and much of what follows, is as weird as the indie filmmaker god’s previous film, “Computer Chess,” an experimental mindf— filmed with a video camera from the 1970s. Underneath a bouncy score, slick tracking shots capture bodies mid-work-out. Sometimes there’s even a screen wipe. This is a far cry from Bujalski’s “Funny Ha Ha,” “Mutual Appreciation” and “Beeswax,” all aggressively microbudgeted, handcrafted character studies that helped ring in a not-quite-movement of indies lumped under the irksome name “mumblecore.”
Bujalski has always hated that term, and sure enough there’s almost none of those films’ inarticulate word vomits can be found in “Results,” which has a budget, a tripod and several name actors. It’s, ostensibly, a love triangle rom-com, and two of its lead characters are the opposite of the insecure real-seeming people he tends to showcase. Kat (Cobie Smulders) is a personal trainer prone to curse-strewn proclamations. She works for Trevor (Guy Pearce), a gym rat with his own gym, who’s looking for an even bigger one. Kat even winds up unexpectedly, perhaps inexplicably, drawn to Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a “pudgy and mellow” (his description) new divorcee newly gifted with millions in inheritance. He whimsically, semi-assedly hires Kat to get him into shape; instead he gets her high and they suddenly, shockingly have a fling.
That’s just the first act. It seems it might become a tale of mismatched lovers — only that Danny gets immediately weird with Kat and Kat throws him to the curb. And then Kat disappears, for so long it feels she may never return. Suddenly it’s impossible to tell where this is going. (You probably felt this earlier, like when you realized this was a rom-com co-starring Kevin Corrigan.) That’s in part because Bujalski himself seems unsure of how to tell a clean, mainstream story without reverting to old, less widely accessible habits. Thing is, Bujalski seems to know this and uses that to turn “Results” into an experiment as rich and strange, in its way, as “Computer Chess,” turning it into a Brundlefly mash-up of a nice, approachable, cute indie and something messier and far less predictable or classifiable.
Every now and then it seems “Results” may settle into something else entirely. While Kat and Danny mate and then un-mate, Trevor hangs out in the background, hanging for so long that we may wonder what a big star like Pearce is doing with such a small role. (Also lurking about are such un-Bujalski-like names like Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall and Brooklyn Decker.) Suddenly, around the midpoint, Trevor becomes one of the leads in the second. It takes awhile to suss out that he and Kat sometimes sleep together, and even longer to suss out that it’s more serious than casual. Even there we’re not sure if they belong together, or even that they would want to unite even if they should.
But the plot remains snaky, ever-changing. The same goes for personalities. The characters all repeatedly surprise us with decisions that seem shocking at first but which only wind up deepening characters that refuse to be boxed in. They have flaws, contradictions; they make choices that seem made up in the moment, perhaps regretted and/or reneged upon later. Kat starts off abrasive and angry, always deploying f-bombs and telling people off; later she chills out, becomes more plaful. Trevor oozes the confidence of anyone who spends their life working out, but soon reveals a defeatism and shyness that's shocking. Even Danny is always up for seeming less or more slovenly than he often appears. The actors are great at finding new parts to their characters, fleshing them out, never letting them settle.
We’re used to movie characters with clean motivations, but “Results” is about real people trying to find new identities, be it through fitness, romantic pursuits or something else entirely.The same goes for the movie itself; it looks like a rom-com centered around a gym but by the end it’s so far afield it seems like something else entirely. If this sounds disastrous, then “Results” makes sense while it’s happening in front of you. You just have to follow it down the copious back alleys and detours it whimsically takes. In its seemingly unassuming way, it’s one of the weirdest and most thrilling films of the year.