SFF 2015: Results
The so-called godfather of mumblecore remains true to his off-the-beaten-track aesthetic with this step toward the mainstream in Results, a rom-com with a typically Andrew Bujalski twist on the mainstream genre. Given that romantic comedy is arguably the most maligned (and I’d argue misunderstood) of the Hollywood genres, it makes sense for Bujalski to start his mainstream career there, working with genre in the same way he works with characters. Romantic comedy is a genre that appreciates people’s foibles and uses them to advance plot, and given the filmmaking context of the director of Computer Chess and Funny Ha Ha, it’s easy to see why the rom-com might appeal to such a filmmaker.
Results starts early to reveal itself as more than a straightforward boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses and then gets girl style of film, though ostensibly it sticks the formula as all good genre films should. Bujalski works with the tropes of the genre as well as the unacknowledged rules of rom-com, particularly that of star power, exemplified in films such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith (the second incarnation), which are as much about placing a previously unintroduced Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the screen to see if they sizzle as it is about the characters they portray.
In Results, Bujalski plays with this idea by casting to actors he admires, placing them in a room and letting interesting characters develop out what is already a comical situation. For Results that pairing belongs to Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, two actors Bujalski admired and “wanted to see in a room together”. Pearce is the big name here, but Corrigan is a face more well known than his name as he’s one of Hollywood’s most prolific small role character actors, a performer Bujalski has admired for some time. However, where a film like Mr. and Mrs. Smith places its stars in a room decked out in familiar roles, Bujalski subverts this premise and transforms his actors into something previously unknown, thereby playing against audience expectations. By first opening the audience to perception and then subverting expectation, Bujalski sets up fertile ground for viewers to experience fascination with characters that follow the typically quirky style we’re so used to now in Bujalski films.
Where Computer Chess (2013) grounded itself in a world that enveloped its strange inhabitants, Results captures a satellite world we’re perhaps more familiar with (the gymnasium) and its peculiar fascination for us, despite its membrane thin connection to the real. The world of the gym and its obsession with “results” is the perfect setting for a filmmaker who has made his mark depicting quirky worlds mired in obsession. Gyms posit the unlikely emotions of fear and comfort together; you’re glad you’re there, but what if you fail? No matter how familiar one becomes with the surrounds, the sense of impending failure never leaves and Bujalski perfectly exemplifies this in Guy Pearce’s character Trevor, a gentle man who looks like he could physically destroy anyone, yet struggles constantly with the trademark Bujalski inability to connect despite constant efforts to do so.
Trevor’s repetition of trite slogans, his adherence to firm routine and his attempts to properly appreciate and understand the “goals” of his clients all add up to a formula that should produce more positive results than it does, but constant failure doesn’t deter him from his constant striving. None of this changes when Danny (Corrigan) comes into his life, a man made immediately and strangely super wealthy, who is trying to get his ex-wife back by getting into shape. The two men form a friendship that becomes a business partnership around a mutual attraction for Kat (Coby Smulders), a trainer at the gym. As the peculiar love triangle plays itself out, we are treated to some of the best characterisation you’ll see in a film today, as Bujalski lovingly layers tiny details upon each other to flesh out these odd yet instantly recognizable people, for whom we can’t help but develop great affection. It’s the way Bujalski twists his plots around the drip-feeding of these revelations that draw us so close and make us fall in love with the people he’s placed on screen.
Some of these details are very funny – such as Trevor’s deadpan face at the failed meeting of his great idol – and some are slight details with the capacity to immediately transform perspective, such as our discovery that Danny’s wife is considerably older than he is. It’s these small, perfectly timed details that draw us into the world of Results and make it a masterful examination of what the rom-com is and is supposed to be, not to mention an overdue legitimacy for those of us who love that style of film. Results carries the trademark wit and wonder of any Bujalski film, but it’s the nuanced and delicate character touches that make this charming film a beautifully made dedication to a much misunderstood genre.