Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: Results (2015)

* *

Director: Andrew Bujalski
Starring: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan

If I had guessed, after seeing Andrew Bujalski's weird and wonderful Computer Chess, what direction he would go in next as a filmmaker, my last guess would have been a low stakes romantic comedy. Yet his follow up film, Results, is just that, though it still possesses the shaggy quirkiness of its indie roots instead of the formulaic gloss typical of Hollywood's take on the genre. The result is almost successful, in that Bujalski avoids a lot of the overworn tropes of the genre and puts a different spin on the tropes that he does use, but Results is also so unworried in its storytelling, so mellow in attitude, that it actually ends up being a little boring. If you responded to the low-fi dynamism of Computer Chess, you're likely to be disappointed with Results, which feels like the director dipping his toe into the mainstream to see if he likes the temperature.

Results centers on three people: Danny (Kevin Corrigan), who is recently divorced and more recently come into an inheritance that has made him very wealthy; Trevor (Guy Pearce), the owner of a small gym who is looking to expand his operations; and Kat (Cobie Smulders), one of the trainers at Trevor's gym whose life revolves entirely around her job. When Danny happens into Trevor's gym and expresses an interest in joining, explaining to Trevor that that his goal is to get into firm enough shape that he can "take a punch," Trevor is reluctant to assign Kat as his trainer, as he gets a weird vibe from Danny, but Kat balks at the idea of another trainer being assigned to the new client and insists on taking him on herself. Wanting to be trained at home, Danny has purchased a bunch of exercise equipment, though how serious he really is about getting into shape is questionable. During their first session Kat asks him to keep a food diary so that she can plan his workouts accordingly, and his first entry notes that he had an entire large pizza on his own, not because he was that hungry but because he was bored. What Danny describes as boredom, however, looks a lot more like loneliness. He's come into enough money that he doesn't have to work and can buy whatever he wants, including the cavernous house he now owns, and he gives away money like he can't get rid of it fast enough, offering $200 to someone simply to come over to his house under the guise of not being able to figure out how to turn on his television, and later offers another $200 for a cat (who he then, hilariously, puts a leash on and tries to take jogging).

In her own way, Kat is just as lonely as Danny is. Her entire life is her work; as a fellow trainer notes, she works 7 days a week. There's a void in her life and when she confides to Danny that she was romantically involved with someone but that it seems to be over now, the two end up having a one night stand. When Danny tries to make more of it, however, Kat flees and her cryptic reasoning for dropping him as a client leads Trevor to believe that Danny sexually harassed her, which in turn prompts Trevor, who is in love with Kat, to try to play the role of white knight. The incident, and its fallout, sparks something in Kat and she decides to quit working as a trainer and start a new career which sees her restlessly spending her days behind a desk, and in her absence Trevor and Danny find themselves drawn together and develop a friendship. When Danny learns that Trevor has his eye on a property that would allow him to expand his gym and better compete with the big franchises, he decides to enter into a business partnership with him, but when he finds out that Trevor is in love with Kat, he uses the business partnership as a means of manipulating Trevor and Kat back into each other's orbit.

The problem with Results is that there never seems to be any urgency to what's going on between the characters and as a result there's really no narrative momentum. Trevor and Kat had a relationship in the past, and have feelings for each other in the present, but neither is compelled to pursue it until Danny forces their hands, and that sense of inertia pervades the film. At its best, Results is an effective story about lonely people struggling to find people to connect with - Danny is so desperate to have someone in his life that he repeatedly tries to get back together with his ex-wife, admitting that their relationship was terrible but suggesting that it also somehow made sense; Trevor has created a whole health and wellness philosophy by which he tries to run his gym and through which he tries to connect with customers; Kat alternately longs to get close to someone and flees from commitment for fear of ending up hurt. When the film is focused on Danny, and on Corrigan's irascible and restive screen presence, the film is pretty easy to engage with and fairly entertaining (albeit in a very low key, casual way), but while Pearce and Smulders deliver fine performances, there's not really anything particularly compelling about the relationship between their characters, each of whom sparks more with Danny than they do with each other. As a result the film feels like it has no actual center and the narrative feels like its just spinning its wheels.

Results isn't a film without its charms. All three of the principal actors get moments to shine and there are bits in the film that are actually quite funny, including the one which introduces Kat and says so much about her character and mindset: she's out jogging and spots one of her clients, who is not only late on her membership payments but is eating a cupcake. Kat then fully Terminator runs after the woman's van until she finally catches up to it, forces it to a stop, and then confronts the woman about both the outstanding bill and the cupcake. In moments like that, and a few others, the film actually seems to come alive but for too much of its running time it just lets the tension lay slack, which makes for a less than riveting viewing experience.

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

I just saw the film and thought is was hilarious. The performances are spot on.