The culture of self-improvement, those who try and “actualize” goals and those who believe the myths of such mantras, are explored with mixed “Results” in Andrew Bujalski’s latest comedy, a funny, lighthearted, and uneven effort. But given his more cynical movie track record, it’s a weirdly optimistic and well-adjusted movie despite its dysfunctional characters.
Cobie Smulders stars as Kat, an abrasive and intense physical fitness personal trailer with a lot of hostility and anger issues. We’re introduced to the character going for a speed jog through her neighborhood of Austin, Texas as she spots and chases down a client and aggressively reminds them they’re late on payments. But the gym “Power 4 Life” — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness being the four elements in question — is not even her business, it’s Trevor’s (Guy Pearce). Trevor, a health instructor and true believer, talks the talk and walks the walk of physical fitness regimes; he speaks in the proselytizing patois of self-empowerment, dreams, and achieving goals (“no fear excuses death” is a slogan on the wall that serves as a good comic gag in the film).
“Results” begins with Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a shlubby New Yorker, who’s relocated to Austin after his painful divorce. Danny wants to get in shape, so he says, but what Danny really wants is some company. Lazy and lonely, Danny’s become an even more miserable person since inheriting a fortune and becoming terribly rich. As Danny enters the world of “Power 4 Life,” after some initial arguments over who will land the lucrative instructing gig, the demanding Kat ends up pestering her way into the personal trainer job, despite Trevor’s protests.
The movie doesn’t spell it out until much later in the game, but it’s clear Trevor and Kat have a complicated romantic past, and Kat is a handful who tests Trevor’s patience constantly. As Danny half-heartedly trains, Kat tries all the wrong approaches to shove her way back into the boss’ life, and as Trevor tries to grow his new gym into a bigger enterprise, conflicts arise as the trio’s lives become intertwined and further knotted.
A breezy film that’s light on its feet with playfully sharp and awkward humor, “Results” is a clever delight that begins to sag in the movie’s second half. As a road trip enters the plotting and Danny goes back to New York, the narrative begins to lose focus, and perhaps more crucially, the film’s lively and witty tone begins to evaporate. As a would-be more mainstream picture from Bujalski, “Results” suffers from minor point of view issues, and it’s unclear whose movie it really is. Bujalski’s baggy picture opens with Danny, seems to be ultimately Kat’s film, but Trevor proves just as elemental. What becomes clear is the film is another Bujalski-penned examination of themes, with characters orbiting the main idea. This technique doesn’t always work, and “Results” sometimes struggles to make its point. As a picture ultimately about the unrealistic notions of exceptionalism, the challenges of romantic desires, and the futility of personal reinvention, what it does have to articulate is at least original and interesting.
Perhaps intended to be his equivalent to Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” — the mumblecore filmmaker’s graduation into crowd-pleasing efforts with real actors instead of non-professionals — “Results” doesn’t have the same woozy aftereffects, but given the cast and the lighter material, it should end up being the idiosyncratic filmmaker’s most successful work to date regardless.
The cast of “Results” is arguably much more faultless than the movie too. Cobie Smulders is the fantastic highlight as the caustic and overbearing Kat, Kevin Corrigan is hilarious as the down-and-out Danny who thinks he can buy his way through life, and it’s rare for Guy Pearce to deliver anything less than full commitment. So he’s chiseled rock-solidly believable as the well-being expert trying to navigate the way love is potentially harming his dreams. There’s a good supporting cast too. Anthony Michael Hall stars as a Germanic, “I’ll pump you up” fitness guru rival that Trevor looks up to, Brooklyn Decker plays his young trophy wife, Giovanni Ribisi stars as Danny’s slimy lawyer and Constance Zimmer plays a real estate agent who briefly hooks up with Trevor when he and Kat are on the outs.
A little shaggy and rough around the edges, “Results” takes a circuitous route to saying what’s on its mind and it doesn’t really earn its “happy” ending. But then again it’s a loose contentment and Bujalski’s slice-of-life pictures always suggest a reality that extends beyond the limits of the closing credits. At the very least, the movie is appropriately as messy as Smulders’ thorny character. “Results” is much more about love than one might actually realize at first. When all is said and done, what materializes is the mismatched Trevor and Kat trying to make their relationship work, despite their deeply defective nature, and the fact that they’re potentially doomed to fail. “Results” isn’t always a successful film, but its philosophies about the myths of perfection as they apply to love are at least credible, funny and well observed. [B]