Andrew Bujalski is maybe the most intriguing and enigmatic young filmmaker working today. Known to many as a pioneer of mumblecore, he branched out into the surreal with 2013's Computer Chess and seemed to be staking his claim as a wholly experimental auteur. Then he made a romantic comedy starring Guy Pearce.
That's an odd choice on paper, but not in execution. We've been weaned on the "small-medium-large" steps to filmmaking glory: first it's your Brick, then your Looper, and finally Star Wars: Episode VIII. But Bujalski doesn't seem to have a lick of interest in following a traditional path, even as he dips into what seems like a more traditional style with Results.
Will Leitch called it "the next Broadcast News" but that's just shorthand for a romantic comedy getting it right. It stars the aforementioned Pearce, Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan as a love triangle that forms around a gym. Pearce is Trevor, the owner and head trainer; Smulders is Kat, his overly passionate employee and occasional love interest; Corrigan is Danny, a newly wealthy schlub who pops in one day with a vague desire to get fit.
Because he's bored, Danny pursues Kat and riles up Trevor, which sets the plot into motion. But the action is interspersed with our leads drinking, smoking, lifting weights, hiring hip jazz combos to play for each other, and generally establishing some welcome character traits. There's also a pervasive sense of discontentment throughout, of striving for a goal that won't provide happiness. Working out, of course, is the perfect metaphor for that; Trevor speaks constantly of engaging the mental and emotional sides of a person along with the physical, but he can never seem to get past the cardio and the pec deck. It could be trite if it wasn't so well-executed.
And fun! Computer Chess was cast with non-actors and shot in black and white; it was disarmingly odd but also a riot. So imagine what Bujalski can do with charming professionals and some well-worn territory to subvert. What a joy it is, in particular, to see Corrigan and Giovanni Ribisi yukking it up as sad-sack rich buddies; Ribisi's Paul appears mid-movie as a potential weed dealer-turned-lawyer at a bar and suddenly, without warning, becomes ensconced in the main plot.
That's a big part overall of what propels Results to great things. Bujalski has an innate sense of moviemaking, and what's OK to leave out; he knows that a short scene where Danny and Paul spark up an odd conversation will not only make us laugh when they're suddenly joined at the hip but also do enough to establish that friendship. It can be just as entertaining, and even funnier, to imagine what they bullshitted about over the rest of that initial meeting. Some people would call that style "quirky" but only because its underutilized; give your audience the chance to fill in some gaps and they'll happily do it.
It helps to have a cast that's this good. Pearce, Corrigan, and Smulders all need to bounce from competent to incompetent, endearing to frustrating, at the whims of the story, and they do so wonderfully. Kat seems like a fuck-up at the start but ultimately proves to be the most put-together of the bunch; Danny can't take his own advice but dishes it to Trevor with good intentions and better (wait for it) results. More than anything, they understand Bujalski's style and get it onto the screen. In the rom-com genre, where boilerplate and formulaic are standard, this feels topsy-turvy.
With a poster like this, I'm not surprised that no one saw Results. Bujalski doesn't have anything close to name value at this point, so it looked like yet another B-movie offering with indie stars. But the curious who hunted it down in theaters, purchased on VOD, or made the leap on Netflix are in for an unexpected treat.