June 10 2015 02:59 PM

Guy Pearce, Colbie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan shine in the new indie by Andrew Bujalski

results
Results

Being in shape doesn't necessarily mean you're better at being in love. If the new romantic comedy Results speaks any truth, having rock hard abs actually ensures a life of commitment issues and unfulfilled desires. This is fantasy, folks, but a charming and effervescent one unimpressed by the popular notion extreme fitness equals extreme happiness. Emotional contentment stems from the long and winding pursuit of self-truth, the laying bare of one's ego.

Directed by indie darling Andrew Bujalski, whose previous film Computer Chess was a striking departure from his early Mumblecore leanings, Results once again finds the young American entering new (albeit more conventional) territory. Guy Pearce stars as Trevor, the seemingly confident owner of a small upstart gym who's looking to expand. One of his trainers, Kat (Cobie Smulders), has just taken on a new client named Danny (Kevin Corrigan), who's recently divorced and newly wealthy after unexpectedly inheriting his mother's fortune.

Flirtations lead to bad decisions, and then to entanglements. Unlike most of its ilk, Results doesn't adhere to easy solutions, instead letting the characters stew in their own messy situations. This fits with the general uneasiness felt by Trevor and Kat as they navigate an attraction neither can communicate, and Danny's deep fear of loneliness masking as self-loathing. We feel for these people even as they don't entirely know how to feel for each other.

Bujalski has previously shown a flair for aggravating dialogue and interactions while indulging in millennial misadventures. Now, spoken by charmers like Pearce, Smulders and Corrigan, his snappy words gather momentum and humanity. The edginess might be gone, but it's replaced by a sincerity severely lacking in his previous efforts.

This holds especially true for Corrigan, long one of America's finest character actors, finally with room to brood and wax eloquently in his perfectly gruff way. He represents the film's awkward beating heart, personifying the stricken indecisiveness of a man suffering silently from a broken spirit. "I want to take a punch," Danny tells Trevor upon their first meeting at the gym. An entire life's worth of anxiety and frustration gets expressed in one line, Corrigan delivering it like a manifesto without a shade of irony.

Corrigan's controlled discomfort plays nicely against Pearce's sweet insecurity and Smulders' snarky stubbornness. They're the most unlikely of rom-com trios, each exhibiting a sense of devotion to the other without coming across as particularly obsessive or catty. This balance can be attributed to Bujalski's admiration for both the character and performer. He was born to work with stars, and hopefully he continues to do so.

While Results cherishes the endurance of those romantics in our midst, it's also very honest about the toll such pragmatism takes on the body and soul. Danny's beaten down posture appears exaggerated for most of the film, but then you experience one dinner with his ex-wife and it all makes sense. Buljaski doesn't judge either party, instead reminding that two people can rationalize a fabricated reality for only so long. Eventually, the dam breaks.

So how does one get serious with the love of their life? Results, which opens Friday, June 12, doesn't suggest that it will happen overnight, in Hollywood's LaLa land or in reality. When Kat tells Trevor, "we are so screwed," she's not admitting defeat but hilariously giving herself over to the exciting process of loving him, in all its messy and frustrating glory. That means being self-reflective, possibly uncomfortably so.

Danny eventually gets to take a punch, but by that time he's already been bruised by disappointment. No matter. Results only sees a hopeful future for someone this willing to continuously pursue an idea of romance that doesn't necessarily make sense, but feels completely right. 

Write to glennh@sdcitybeat.com.

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