In Results, director Andrew Bujalski seizes upon physical training as a resonant metaphor for the work and risk that are inherent in cultivating significant interpersonal connections. Bujalski’s elegantly lean screenplay never spells this out, but it’s clear that fitness represents for the film’s characters an outreach toward something tactile as a response to Internet culture, which leaves many adrift in self-fashioned cocoons, clueless as to how to interact with people. Danny (Kevin Corrigan) is certainly lost, roaming around his empty, rented Austin mansion, posting ads on Craigslist offering hundreds of dollars to strangers who will perform simple tasks for him such as setting up his cable or hooking his laptop up to his huge TV. Danny’s primarily interested in watching YouTube videos advertising a local fitness firm, which feature an instructor, Kat (Cobie Smulders), bending over in tights as she advises someone on proper posture, which she’s already taught Danny personally in private consultations. This early image haunts the film: of Danny gazing at Kat on his TV, looking at her butt with befuddled loneliness.
Such images establish a set of emotional stakes that’s increasingly rare in the modern romantic comedy, which has too often become either a fantasy of financial conformity or a fable of slob empowerment, which is the former fashionably dressed down for bros anyway. Contemporary rom-coms are so obsessed with attainment—of a man, of a woman, of a job, of “having it all”—that they rarely evince the simple pleasures to be taken from the company of a lover. Bujalski particularly restores the sense of touch to the genre, understanding it to be a terrifying, ecstatically sensual act of communication, basic sensory exploration, and even of communion. When characters touch each other in the film, sexually or otherwise, the actions are fraught with tension and a kind of joy with which the awkward, like Danny, can often only fantasize. When Kat asks Danny if she can touch him (professionally), one’s allowed to understand the leap that’s required of the latter to say yes, because he’s heartbroken over his recent divorce and stammering around in a social bubble that bores and depresses him. When Kat and Danny do briefly fool around, it’s framed with Danny’s huge TV in the background, comically eclipsing them, with Kat perched awkwardly on an exercise ball. Stoned, Kat rolls over to Danny, searching for a refuge of spontaneity from the unceasing regulation of her profession and life at large.
Bujalski’s a rare kind of filmmaker: He’s a formalist and an actor’s director, equally and simultaneously, who’s somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Demme. In Computer Chess, the formalism is oppressive (which is admittedly the point), but in Beeswax and Results, the aesthetic heightens the actors’ performances and vice versa. Like Joe Swanberg’s recent films, Results offers a model for the modernization of the romantic comedy, and not only in regard to the dramatization of touch, signaling a blossoming democracy in the genre. Bujalski’s visual choices are never ostentatious, as he prefers medium and long shots where a rom-com hack would opt for impersonally choppy close-ups bathed in garish white lighting. There’s symbolic importance to this distinction. Bujalski is never not aware of his characters’ ecosystems, while other romances celebrate closing off to anything that doesn’t affirm one’s preferred version of themselves. The film is so funny and alive that it takes one a while to identify it as an updated comedy of remarriage, with Corrigan assuming a crazier version of a role that might’ve once gone to Ralph Bellamy, which serves to inspire the heroine to reunite with the guy right in front of her, whom she’s written off out of fear of the emotions he stirs.
In Results, that guy is Trevor, the owner of the fitness company that Danny initially consults with, and he’s played by Guy Pearce in a revelatory performance. Pearce has always been a commanding presence, but he’s often played roles that demand him to lock himself up internally as an island away from the rest of the respective films. Trevor’s emotionally remote but doesn’t know it, as he’s alone among a sea of bodies both fit and self-abused, preaching openness, which he utilizes as the ultimate catch-all evasion of it. Pearce renders Trevor vulnerable without making a show of it, though it’s there in the character’s halting line deliveries and physical gestures, which astutely vary in relation to others around him. Trevor’s neediness sneaks up on the viewer, imbuing his eventual partnership with the wealthy Danny with a poignant and convincing sense of personal completion.
At its broadest, Results is about that unexpected exhilaration of meeting someone who looks nothing like you who’s revealed to be see the world from a similar skewed place. Danny’s a frump and Trevor and Kat are gorgeous and poised, but they all complement each other in a manner that empowers Kat and Trevor to join romantically in an exhilaratingly casual climax that begins as a sideways homage to the most famous scene in Five Easy Pieces. Bujalski’s decency as an artist—his respect for every character—is deeply and cumulatively moving, offering a utopia of interconnectivity. Results is the rare romantic comedy that’s hopeful without resorting to condescending, deadening platitude, temporarily lending respectability to the phrase “life-affirming.”