Indie writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s great talent is calling attention to the inherent ridiculousness of everyday life. In “Results,” which follows personal trainers at a boutique gym, each bouncy fitness class and cheesy affirmation adds gentle humor to a movie that’s a delight to watch, especially when it’s casually observing its characters going about their days.
Guy Pearce plays Trevor, the amiable, muscular owner of the Power 4 Life gym in Austin. Trevor has a sign tacked up on the wall of his office that reads “110%,” and he believes wholeheartedly in the power of positive thinking. He’s convinced that dreaming of a newer, bigger facility means the universe will turn his fantasy into the real thing. Otherwise, he seems pretty content. That is, except for one thorn in his side — his hotheaded employee, Kat (Cobie Smulders). She’s good at her job, but occasionally takes things too far, like when she stalks and berates a client for sneaking a cupcake.
Their tenuous peace is disrupted by the arrival of new client Danny (Kevin Corrigan, perfectly cast), a doughy stoner who has just inherited a huge pile of money and, after a divorce, arrives at the doorstep of Power 4 Life. Danny is eccentric to the max, often awkward and sometimes creepy. When Trevor asks the walk-in what his fitness goals are, Danny thinks for a moment before responding, “I want to be able to take a punch without falling down or puking.”
Kat takes the job, but it turns out that Danny may be less interested in doing lunges than ogling her derrière while she demonstrates proper squat technique.
Until now, Bujalski has been a fringe filmmaker, who makes Sundance-ready mumblecore movies. His last feature was “Computer Chess,” a low-key black-and-white chronicle of a tournament where nerds try to outsmart machines. And just as he lovingly portrayed geeks and their humorous tics, Bujalski finds comedy in the gym rat world without ridiculing his ripped characters.
The movie, which is by far Bujalski’s most mainstream offering, turns somewhat unexpectedly into a romantic comedy. The love story that emerges is sweet, but also surprisingly less exciting than the everyday stuff: seeing Kat meet with a new client, watching Trevor film a cut-rate promotional video and witnessing him lead a pretty lonely after-hours existence that’s not unlike Danny’s.
The run-of-the-mill scenes are so entertaining thanks in large part to the expertly chosen cast, including a cameo from Anthony Michael Hall as Trevor’s Russian fitness idol. (Hall is starting to bear an uncanny resemblance to Dolph Lundgren, which works well for this particular role.) It’s nice to see Pearce, who is a powerful dramatic actor, doing lighter fare, and it’s even more exciting to see what Smulders can do now that she’s freed up from “How I Met Your Mother.”
“Results” is a smooth transition for Bujalski from the fringes to more commercial work. It’s heartening that he didn’t give up his calling-card observational humor to do it.
R. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains strong language, sexual situations and drug use.