BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Without name actors and with just the slenderest threads of plot, writer/director Andrew Bujalski has made four of the most smart and perceptive American comedies of our era. While his last, the 80s period piece Computer Chess, was his most ambitious, his latest, a small scale romantic comedy called Results, brings name actors into the mix for the first time. Just having Guy Pearce (unashamedly sporting an Australian accent) and Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother starring in the film makes Results Bujalski’s most commercial film yet but it doesn’t interfere with the director’s usual strategy of creating bemused humor out of the smallest of everyday incidents.
The always watchable Pearce and conventionally-beautiful Smulders may carry the romantic burden as a positive thought-driven gym owner and his tightly-wound star trainer but deposited in the center of their Austin world is Kevin Corrigan as the rumpled Danny. Mysteriously wealthy and nursing post-divorce self-malice, Danny stumbles into their gym looking to change something in his life but during his private, home-based training with Smulder’s Kat he quickly become entangled in the low-burning affair she is having with Pearce’s Trevor. During his interview in Trevor’s gym office, Danny announced his training goal as “being able to take a punch in the face” and as the tale unspools we start to believe that Trevor is going to help Danny achieve that goal. Corrigan, a long-time beloved character actor in films like Goodfellas and Slums of Beverly Hills, is as always ingratiating in the center role, the type of shiftless semi-loser Steve Buscemi might have played a decade or so ago.
Bujalski’s script hits the same plot points as you would expect from any romantic comedy but it is his eccentric, circuitous style that makes him the rare distinctive voice in whatever shrinking spot “indie cinema” holds in the U.S. today. Bujalski’s films capture a very modern character, showcasing a generation perpetually distracted and unable to proclaim their emotions directly. For example, in his 2005 film Mutual Admiration, a flirting young couple creates unbearable suspense as they sit on the side of the bed forever waiting for the other to commit to a first step.
Where his earlier films were focused around artistic bohemian types (refraining from the weighted word “hipster”) with Results Bujalski finds a similarly hesitant pair in two decidedly unhip gym addicts. It’s a believable location to find such characters,Trevor and Kat share an ability to drown their confusing emotions in a sea of deep-knee bends and, always in their gym clothes, the pair are prone to beating their stress by exercising in any public space they see fit. They both seem a little too self-absorbed for a relationship yet the near-religious fervor they share for working out does seem like it might be enough to bind them.
Like all of the films in Bujalski’s consistently-impressive filmography, its the cumulative effect of all these character details, doled out in the most naturalistic manner possible, that give his films their unique comic punch. If you’re not tuned into these details Bujalski’s latest might seem like a undramatic, half-baked hundred-plus minutes better spent elsewhwere but people who find humor in studying some slightly-maladjusted characters up-close should be rewarded by Results.