After helming four critically-admired but little-seen indie features, director Andrew Bujalski has finally made a bid for something resembling mainstream success. Happily, he's managed to do so without losing any of what makes him a distinctive filmmaker. There's a vast surface-level difference between the fuzzy black-and-white aesthetic of Bujalski's Computer Chess and the bright, slick, polished, snappily-edited digital look offered by Results, but both movies are insightful, empathetic, weirdly funny examinations of the sort of fascinatingly offbeat subcultures movies often ignore.
Trevor (Guy Pearce, Memento) is an Australian physical fitness instructor who owns a small gym in Austin, Texas. He has a number of hard-working personal trainers on his staff, including the handsome-but-inappropriately-flirty Lorenzo (Tishaun Scott, Computer Chess) and the dedicated-but-hot-tempered Kat (Cobie Smulders, How I Met Your Mother). One day, a wealthy slob named Danny (Kevin Corrigan, Fringe) wanders into the gym and makes a simple request: “I want to be able to take a punch.” Trevor arranges for Kat to visit Danny's mansion for a series of training sessions, but Danny quickly loses interest in his fitness goals and starts gaining interest in romancing Kat.
Eventually, there's a love triangle of sorts between Danny, Kat and Trevor – I say “of sorts” because various parties seem to be dropping out of it at various points (or at least pretending to drop out of it). This is a refreshingly unconventional romantic comedy, eschewing both the formulaic plotting of polished studio rom-coms and the aggravatingly precious quirks of similarly-themed indie fare. Instead, it simply forms its characters and lets them mingle, allowing a series of surprising chemical reactions to take place that push the film in all sorts of unexpected directions. It's deliberately loose and messy on a narrative level, but consistently sharp and observant in the realm of characterization.
Results is consistently funny, too, finding a lot of laughs in the particulars of the way these characters live. The funniest moments here aren't big comedy setpieces, but little things like the cheesy visual effects in Trevor's inspirational YouTube videos, the way Danny's physical movement seems to be rooted in a desire to put as little effort as possible into everything he does and the way Kat's chipper “you can do it!” encouragement can quickly curdles into profane ferocity. There's also a delightful running gag involving Danny's commitment to photographing everything he eats (mostly junk) for the “food diary” Kat has tasked him with maintaining. Bujalski is deeply amused by the way physical fitness defines the lives of these characters, but his gags never feel smug or mean-spirited. Bujalski is clearly delighted by these people, and he ensures that we are, too.
The performances are exceptional, particularly Pearce as the charmingly earnest Trevor. This is the sort of man who fully believes every message he has ever received from a motivational poster, and Pearce finds a curious sweetness in the scenes in which Trevor's optimism brushes up against harsher realities. And how great is it that Pearce gets to use his real accent in a film set in Austin, Texas? Corrigan's slovenly exhaustion is perpetually entertaining, and Smulders' occasional bursts of fury provide several of the film's most memorable moments – it's not just that she gets angry, it's that she gets angry and mean without any advance warning. The neat trick that Bujalski pulls with all of these characters is that he introduces them as conventional types and quickly proceeds to turn them into complicated, unique people – a pretty nifty reflection of the way our perception of real people we meet deepens over time. As long as he's able to keep doing that, I'm down for whatever he has to offer.
Rating: ★★★½ (out of four)
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Year: 2015