Sundance Review: Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce, and Kevin Corrigan Reinvent the Rom-Com in Andrew Bujalski’s Results

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Photo: Sundance International Film Festival

Set in the world of Texas fitness instructors and starring some big-name actors, Andrew Bujalski’s Results looks at first like a concerted attempt to cross over into the world of mainstream rom-coms. But look again. Bujalski, a onetime “mumblecore” wunderkind (yeah, though he hates the M-word, and with good reason), has always toyed structurally with familiar stories. And Results feels so free-form, so liberated from the shackles of genre, that it becomes its own wonderfully alive and unpredictable thing. Plus, it’s funny as shit.

Results begins with Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a recently divorced and aimless New Yorker who has recently arrived in Austin and set up home in a giant McMansion. (His mother died a week after his divorce and left him a ton of money.) Moping around his empty house strumming guitars and watching TV, Danny decides to get into shape and goes to Power-4 Life, a local gym run by Trevor (Guy Pearce), an earnest trainer who has completely bought into the goals-oriented talk of self-help programs and lifestyle changes. In a wonderful bit of character shorthand, Danny spies a sign in Trevor’s office that reads “Fear Excuses Defeat.” Trevor reveals that a coat is blocking the giant “NO” on the left side of the poster: “No Fear, No Excuses, No Defeat.” It’s a perfect introduction to both of these men and their very different lives.

Danny starts training with the beautiful and intense Kat (Cobie Smulders), and, as schlubby lovesick guys tend to do around beautiful and intense women, he starts to fall for her. Interestingly, she seems drawn to him as well. Complicating things is the fact that Kat is also in a casual and professionally inappropriate relationship with Trevor, whose sole focus seems to be expanding his gym and adding yogis and psychiatrists to the program to fully realize his vision of improving everyone’s lives. Kat, for her part, doesn’t buy into any of Trevor’s self-help B.S. She’s living a bit of an emotionally itinerant life, and she seems okay with that.

Depending on whom you ask, it is at this point that Results either goes off the rails or comes into its own. Most other filmmakers would treat this burgeoning love triangle in the usual way — intercutting between these characters and following their intertwined journeys as they hit the typical romantic beats. Bujalski seems to have little interest in that. He’s content to drop certain key characters for vast stretches of the story, seemingly letting the relationships dictate the structure, almost like a jazzman riffing instead of a purposeful storyteller.

That may feel too loose for some, but it results in a movie that, despite being generally predictable, never quite lets you know what’s about to happen next. You’re with it all the way, absorbed in its world and eager to know more about these people and where they’re headed. That might not have worked had the script’s observations not been so on-point, and if Smulders, Pearce, and especially Corrigan hadn’t invested their characters with such life. But with this cast, and such a vivid sense of play, Results manages, in its own subtle, unassuming way, to reinvent the rom-com. It’s enchanting.