Writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s last film was the psychedelic nerd-convention comedy Computer Chess, a layered existential gambol that vouched for human complexity even as it stared down the ascendance of personal computing. Results, his new film, has a minor feel by comparison, despite an unmistakable uptick in production value. Like the health nuts it follows, it’s conventionally pretty, a bit awkward, and ultimately benign. Its bevy of personal trainers, led by Guy Pearce as Trevor, the stubbornly sportsmanlike owner of a nascent fitness empire called Power 4 Life, are concerned with the skin-deep, or rather the muscle-deep. Their relationships come second to their self-improvement regimens, which Bujalski uses as a motif throughout the film. Still, there’s something disarmingly real about their vanity and rote self-help patter — Bujalski knows how to reveal the immaturities and hangups people hide behind money, ambition, and the pursuit of a better body.
One of Trevor’s hired soldiers is Kat (a great Cobie Smulders), a domineering 29-year-old with a piss-poor attitude toward authority. She bullies Trevor into giving her flabby divorcé Danny (Kevin Corrigan) as a client — this despite Danny’s vaguely shifty “fitness goals” (he wants to take a punch without “puking, or bleeding, uh, too much”). Danny becomes the film’s chief enigma — he’s only exceptional because of a recent gigantic inheritance, and he makes no effort to deny this, occupying a cavernous, largely unfurnished house and paying Kat for her services two years in advance. Unlike Kat and Trevor, who exude the confidence of the kale-shake-and-plyometrics-fueled, he can barely talk, let alone woo Kat, which he clumsily attempts. Despite that failure, he maintains his connection to Kat and Trevor by brandishing his wallet and legal connections — really just one lawyer he met in a bar, a chill drunk played by Giovanni Ribisi.
The jokes about the shallowness of gym culture, which culminate in Anthony Michael Hall’s cameo as a kettlebell-wielding YouTube guru, are far less funny than Danny’s social incompetence, carried off beautifully by the admirably weird Corrigan. Witness a shirtless Danny, drunkenly struggling into a painful-looking Child’s Pose, mumbling: “Kat showed me this, she said this was good for stress relief.” One of his habits is to post ads online promising quick cash in exchange for simple services like turning on his television, or providing him with a cat, which he later takes jogging with him. As Trevor seeks to expand his business and Kat browbeats everyone within spitting distance, Danny is the one dragging these hardbodies back to Bujalski-land — a place where awkward, inarticulate types reign supreme over the appropriately shambling narrative.
This type of ramshackle comedy feels alien because it’s not what we’ve come to expect of a rom-com, which is what Results actually is shot to resemble (the film’s DP is Bujalski’s longtime collaborator Matthias Grunsky, who also crafted the lo-fi video grayscale of Computer Chess). But while the polish of good-looking Hollywood types shot in clean, well-lit spaces doesn’t quite connect with Bujalski’s writing style, the film’s tone is honestly unorthodox, a quality missing from most mid-budget comedies.