It’s a narrow lane, but Andrew Bujalski owns it: the cinema of the weird shit people do when they’re alone. His last film, Computer Chess, touched on it, but Results goes there in a way that will make 95% of its viewers confused and uncomfortable. After all, the colorful posters with the smiling Guy Pearce don’t mention that his character loves cuddling with a man-sized dog. Similarly, How I Met Your Mother fans expecting to spend time with a Cobie-Smulders-as-Robin-esque character will be shocked and probably bummed out by Kat, a complicated, forceful woman with a unique way of interacting with others.
Still, for the lucky few predisposed to enjoy this special type of awkwardness, Bujalski is on fire. Results is a slippery eel of a movie—never one thing for more than a few scenes and gleeful about the way it subverts expectations. It looks nice, is sharp and honest. Count it among the best films so far in 2015.
If we must classify it as something, it’s probably best to call Results a romantic comedy. It’s these characters and their twisted relationships that propel the film forward. There’s even a bizarre love triangle that exists for a time and really mucks things up for at least one of the characters involved.
Let’s start there. Guy Pearce plays Trevor, a fitness and wellness entrepreneur with big dreams. One of his employees is the aforementioned Kat (Smulders). We first meet her on a morning run when she chases down a delinquent client and chastises her in front of her children. Things don’t get any less confrontational when Trevor and the other Power 4 Life trainers try to course-correct Kat. She’s extremely difficult, but as she’ll tell you, her client reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Enter Danny (Kevin Corrigan), an extremely wealthy physical and social schlub who signs up for a two-year contract with Kat simply because he doesn’t know what else to do with all his money. And after one session, he’s smitten. His advances make Kat uncomfortable, however, and she ends things in an appropriately Kat way, but this series of incidents awakens a protective fire in Trevor, who really lets Danny have it. It’s unclear to Trevor whether this instinct to stand up for Kat in the face of lots and lots of money is something any employer would do for his employee or a sign of something deeper. For her money, Kat feels something for her boss but no longer feels anything for her job. She quits, Trevor dithers, and Danny acts decisively both for and against his new enemies.
I opened the film by mentioning how much Bujalski seems to relish exploring how weird these people are when they’re alone. That certainly applies to Danny, the guy who pays people on Craigslist $200 to fix his cable connection and drop off a cat, among who knows what else. As the film ticks on, however, the film becomes increasingly defined by how all these characters interact with one another. In particular, the nature of the Trevor-Kat relationship changes on a dime, and the former sort of turns into a puddle of insecurity and indecision. Kat, meanwhile, finds a confident streak, but it’s one that’s defined by an almost perverse type of honesty that most others around her find somewhat threatening and definitely off-putting. It’s such a unique shift in power dynamics with some interesting things to say about gender. There are times when it feels unwieldy—like a mine cart that could at any moment fall either way off the tracks. But both its stealthy ambition and willingness to go places most films won’t leave it lingering in my mind days later.
As good as the film’s script is, it’s nothing without its actors. Pearce is very good, but Smulders gives a performance I didn’t know she had in her. She’s a very appealing presence in pretty much everything she’s done, but this is her playing very against type and carving a defined character out of a number of disparate, often contradictory traits. It’s really hard to pin Kat down, which makes various characters’ attraction to her understandable, and other characters’ repulsion by her just as understandable. All I know is I enjoyed the hell out of getting to know her, and it makes me very curious about the actress’ future. I certainly would not mind seeing her re-team with Bujalski one day.
The film’s title is one that intrigues me. “Results” obviously refers to the idea in fitness that you’ve achieved something tangible—ten pounds lost or an extra inch on your biceps. In this film, I think those sort of results are elusive. It’s a broad word that, here, speaks more toward consequences. One person acts, another person reacts, and you’re left with a result. Here, you have three people (as well as some peripheral players) that desperately want those results to be something, but often they’re another thing. Kat wants her client surveys to result in a raise. Trevor wants his thoughtful planning to result in a CrossFit-esque wellness phenomenon. Danny wants his spending money to result in happiness. They don’t necessarily get that, but they adapt or act out, and it’s so very delicious to watch unfold.