What we want and what we need are two opposing ideas. Many people spend the greater part of their lives searching for the former without ever coming close to grasping the latter. Because of this, we’re often lost and misguided. Or confused and distraught. Or perhaps even angry and bitter. Sometimes we turn to others for help, and they often claim they have all the answers and ideas, only they’re just as clueless, swimming around in life’s murky waters with foggy goggles and fading energy. That’s essentially the conceit of Andrew Bujalski’s latest film, Results.
His highly anticipated followup to 2013’s ingenious comedy, Computer Chess, is a star-studded affair. It’s a romantic comedy starring Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Brooklyn Decker, and Anthony Michael Hall. That’s one hell of a cast for the indie filmmaker, and quite a leap from his previous ensembles, but he does well with each performer. The problem however is that, similar to his characters’ plights and the overall themes he’s addressing, the film isn’t exactly comfortable with what it wants or needs to be.
Bujalski spends a hefty 105 minutes trying arduously to break the formula of a rom-com, meandering into bizarro dreamscapes and meditative vignettes and yet ultimately lands where the genre insists upon. Pearce and Smulders respectively play dedicated and feisty personal trainers with a hush-hush history. Corrigan is a recent divorcee who inherits millions of dollars and joins a gym looking to improve his life. They’re collectively miserable though entwined in their search for happiness together.
All three are potential leads in this story but neither of them actually become one. Instead, Bujalski shuffles through his characters with a stern poker face as he attempts to avoid the tropes and pitfalls of the genre of which he inevitably succumbs to by the film’s end. That’s about the most disappointing facet to the film, namely because he’s working with a very solid and original cast who are all bringing their A game.
How often do we really get to see Corrigan? He’s usually relegated to being the problematic friend or a shady supporting cast member for a Martin Scorcese picture. Here he’s handed an intense and strong arc early on, which sadly evolves into connective tissue for the far more predictable romance between Smulders and Pearce. That’s not to say they aren’t interesting either — in fact, Smulders proves she’s indie gold while Pearce delivers yet another fascinating performance in his latest career chapter — it’s just that they’re shipped around in such a way that it’s almost patronizing.
It’s an understandable predicament for Bujalski. This is the closest to a mainstream offering he’s ever delivered and given that he’s often referred to as one of the godfathers of “mumblecore,” there’s an unspoken degree of accountability at hand for the thirtysomething filmmaker. Does he retain his own devices or risk absconding into the Hollywood ether? Does he break the genre or simply fall into line? It doesn’t seem like Bujalski’s convinced yet and so he does a bit of both with Results, and although he wanders, there’s still a certain intrigue to the proceedings. If it’s any consolation, you’re more than likely to check your watch than roll your eyes.