Constitutionally averse to overblown “big moment” movie clichés, low-budget filmmaker Andrew Bujalski has carved himself a niche out of understated, lifelike irresolution. As Bujalski once said in elaborating his view of Hollywood-style acting, “Strong choices with too little thought behind them can become a kind of steroid, jacking up a scene into nonsense.” That language in particular sets the table nicely for his almost (but not quite) Hollywood-style film, a comedy about fitness training that hails by the dryly ironic title of Results.
Structurally, it’s a sort of lopsided love triangle. Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a rich, feckless, newly divorced slob, has fled New York to hole up in an all-but-empty Austin McMansion. As he explains to Trevor (Guy Pearce), a thickly Australian local gym entrepreneur, Danny’s primary fitness goal right now is “to take a punch.” Reluctantly, for various reasons, Trevor dispatches Kat (Cobie Smulders), his high-strung top trainer and occasional offhand lover, to serve the new client with house calls. Ensuing complications reveal a movie so courageously character-driven that it colors sometimes way outside genre lines. Bujalski observes a correlation between vanity and alienation but doesn’t get didactic about causation. He’d rather just stage a modest celebration of the funny ways we all have of groping for self-betterment. In never quite locking in to subculture satire or straight-ahead romantic comedy, Results sets a great example of how not to be pat.
The trainers’ intensity is both buffoonish and sincere. The client’s slackness both is and is not a pose. The relationships are fumbling and funny. One exchange between Danny and Kat goes like this: “I didn’t know you were this angry,” he says. “Well, I am,” she answers, and he adds, “It’s not making me any less attracted to you.” On the page, that might seem like standard romcom dialogue, snappy bordering on sitcom-glib. But Corrigan and Smulders elevate it with some intangible exactness, a sense of mutual discovery, that’s perfectly funny and perfectly true. In another comedically combative moment later on, when Kat tells Trevor something that’s hard for him to hear, he responds by spontaneously twirling himself around a pull-up bar. Semi-baffled, she wonders aloud if the gesture is supposed to be erotic. Bujalski is so good at this little gestural stuff—there’s a similarly exquisite moment in his first film, Funny Ha Ha, when the character played by the director himself casually throws a beer bottle off a balcony in mute frustration—because he trusts it and trusts his audience.
The filmmaker has acknowledged Results as his first attempt to be “commercial,” including the quotation marks. As befits a story about a certain breed of earnest gymfolk, it is almost oppressively good-looking: crisp, well lit and aesthetically standardized by cinematographer Matthias Grunsky as a hollow vessel of generic production values. It’s also a vessel for some of the best work each of its name-brand actors has ever done. Outwardly buff, inwardly faking it until making it, this seems like exactly the little indie movie our modern gym culture deserves.