Dueling Agendas

Film-Lead-1523Appealing cast in edgy rom-com ‘Results’

If you’re not sure what’s going on, exactly, in the first few scenes of the romantic comedy Results, don’t worry. You are not alone. The story is set in the world of fitness trainers and their clients, and it takes a little while for the audience to figure out who’s who and what’s what as the characters’ dueling agendas play out and the nature of their emotional baggage is revealed. Still, the audience is way ahead of the characters, who persist in having no clue what they really want or how to get it.

Which is, of course, the basis of romantic comedy. If the characters understood what they wanted, and seized it when it was standing right in front of them, there would be no movie. It’s a question of how much fun, if any, is the journey from initial quest to, er, results. Fortunately, a talented cast makes the journey in Results pretty entertaining. As an added bonus, writer-director Andrew Bujalski keeps things just off-kilter enough that nothing seems to be a foregone conclusion—no relationship is inevitable, and anything at all might happen between the characters at any given moment.

In a brief prologue, sad-sack New Yorker, Danny (Kevin Corrigan), is thrown out by his soon-to-be ex-wife. Transplanted to Austin, Texas to settle his late mother’s estate, he discovers he’s become a millionaire, and enrolls in a neighborhood gym called Power 4 Life to get in shape. (His goal, he says, is to “be able to take a punch.”) The owner, Trevor (Guy Pearce), is a hardcore fitness junkie with a soft heart and an apostle’s starry-eyed zeal about the power of fitness to change lives.

An apparent wild card is Kat (Cobie Smulders). She’s a star trainer at the gym, but her work habits tend to be erratic, as is her allegiance to her scheduled hours. She also has definite anger issues; out for one of her daily runs, she chases down a client in an SUV she spies eating a cupcake. Kat also reminds the woman her membership has expired and she owes them money—an aspect of the business Kat doesn’t think Trevor handles well enough, with his Zen-like taste for harmony.

Little by little, random bits of each characters’ psyche are revealed—but not before a lot of idle speculation on the part of the viewer. In fact, our expectations of what may or may not be going on between these people is part of the balancing act Bujalski manages to pull off. He also salts in arresting, telling details—like the electric guitar that middle-aged Danny buys with his newfound wealth (although his big, new house is almost empty). Or the way the outraged Kat acts out when a client quits on her. (Although she admits she has a “dark side,” if anyone “crosses a line.”)

Meanwhile, Trevor, determined positive thinker but sketchy businessman, trusts that the universe will provide when he decides to expand his business to a new, bigger location. And just when we think we know how all these characters are going to interact, things shift—and that keeps the story interesting.

The actors are very engaging. The ever-versatile Pearce, who has everything in his résumé (cold-blooded cops and killers, drag queens, costume epics) is wryly funny and strangely romantic—if always a bit edgy—as Trevor. Corrigan’s Danny comes across as mostly a harmless schlub (or possible stalker) with a deadpan sense of humor; even his cluelessness about—well, basically everything—becomes sort of endearing.

But it’s Smulders’ unpredictable Kat who sets the plot in motion. While she seems like simply an angry virago at first, Smulders gradually layers on shadings of vulnerability, tart sarcasm, and unexpected winsomeness as her character evolves.

The gym locale is fun too, with its buff trainers and cheerfully backsliding clients. In Bujalski’s tolerant universe, Trevor understands that he’s less a coach than a purveyor of dreams, ministering to the faithful, if they only believe.


(***) With Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski. A Magnolia Pictures release. Rated R. 105 minutes. 

PHOTO: Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce play a personal trainer and gym owner in Andrew Bujalski’s romantic comedy ‘Results.’

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