Makers of film comedies often invent weird characters and put them into outrageous situations for laughs, a strategy which does work sometimes. A less common, and more interesting approach is to recognize that most ordinary people are weird in some way—so once you create an amusing premise, you can let your characters behave in ways that are actually plausible. That’s kind of what writer-director Andrew Bujalski does in his latest film, Results. The odd premise that gets things rolling is that Danny, a pudgy, middle-aged, recently divorced, socially awkward slob played by Kevin Corrigan, has unexpectedly inherited a fortune and doesn’t know what to do with all his money. So he goes to a local gym in Austin, Texas called Power4Life, to get a personal fitness trainer to come to his house and shape him up, presumably (at least in part) so he can have better luck with women. Power4Life is owned by an Australian named Trevor, played by Guy Pearce, who talks in the upbeat motivational style that you expect from fitness gurus. Danny gets assigned Trevor’s best and most popular trainer Kat, played by Cobie Smulders. She’s gorgeous, talented, a little arrogant, and very stubborn. Anyone would know that it would be a mistake for Danny to fall for her. Anyone except Danny, that is.
Bujalski has excelled in the past making dry low-budget comedies, and he’s part of a group of filmmakers whose style, for some silly reason, has been given the label of “mumblecore.” His last feature, Computer Chess, from 2013, was some kind of bizarre masterpiece, with a pretend 1980s video look and a priceless, under-the-radar sense of humor. With Results, he finally gets a bigger budget and studio-level cinematography. Has he sold out? No. He’s sharper and more intelligent than ever.
And he’s brought out amazing work from the three lead actors. Guy Pearce should do comedy more often, because he’s terrific here. Trevor is a good guy whose pretensions are constantly being punctured, and the way Pearce shows his character trying to maintain his poise is just beautiful. I haven’t really noticed Cobie Smulders before—I know she’s been in the Avengers movies—but here she plays this incredibly witty woman who is attracted to Guy Pearce’s character but constantly calls him on his nonsense. Her unwillingness to give him even a little break gets funnier and funnier. Then there’s Kevin Corrigan, a guy who’s been playing small supporting roles for over 25 years, and finally here he gets to shine in a big role as Danny. With his lack of social skills and tendency to be belligerent, Danny could have come off as a sad sack, but Corrigan is funny just in the way his face moves, without even saying anything. The basic situation is that Danny’s millions prevent Trevor and Kat from completely blowing him off, and so he ends up having an undue influence on the gym, and on their relationship. But where a lesser film might pursue this theme to an obvious conclusion, in this story nothing happens the way you’d expect. Everyone turns out to have more on the ball, to have more depth of character if you will, than you were prepared for at first. And this is one of the main reasons I find Bujalski’s point of view so refreshing. He doesn’t ridicule or condescend—his characters make us laugh because they’re just like us.
Now, in case you haven’t noticed, I was thoroughly won over by Results—it’s just what the doctor, or should I say the trainer, ordered.