Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Writer/director Andrew Bujalski's latest film, "Results," is his first to feature established actors (Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan), and it is his version of a rom-com. What that means is that romance is a series of messy encounters and bizarre interludes, with buried motivations running the show. Human emotions are a mystery to these characters. They don't know how to speak the language of the heart, which (coincidentally) makes them seem more "real" than most characters in movies. In conventional rom-coms, when a character makes a heartfelt speech, it is articulate and cathartic. In "Results," the characters (most of whom are physical trainers) fall back on fitness metaphors, and even as they do so they know that they aren't quite getting to the heart of the matter. Words help you access your emotions and these characters, for the most part, don't have the words. It's a very Bujalski-esque quality, awkward, prickly, irritable. "Results" doesn't have the inventiveness of "Computer Chess" (2013), and in some cases Bujalski feels out of his depth in "Results," but perhaps that is just where he needs to be. "Results" is not entirely successful (the two main plots don't quite fit together) but it does have a charm and a style that works. In its own weird way, it is quite romantic, while acknowledging that romance is sometimes unpleasant, always messy, and hooking up with someone represents the beginning of a lifetime of getting into messes and digging oneself out. That quality alone makes "Results" a really refreshing film.
Taking place in Austin, Texas, "Results" introduces us to a close-knit, argumentative group of personal trainers, who all work at Power 4 Life, a gym created by the ambitious and helplessly inarticulate Trevor (Guy Pearce). Trevor has big plans: He wants to be a guru. He wants to create an entire "philosophy" for fitness and wellness, although he can't really articulate what that philosophy is. He wants to expand his gym to include juice bars and psychiatrists on call. The personal trainers who work for him are at each other's throats in competition for clients. When we first meet Kat (Cobie Smulders), she's on her daily run, and she chases down a car she recognizes to demand that the driver settle up late payments. Kat is ferocious and judgmental. Terrifying, really. She's also been sleeping with Trevor, her boss. They both know it's inappropriate, but they can't help it.
Into this cloistered world of extraordinarily fit and driven people strolls the schlubby, sweaty Danny (Kevin Corrigan, in a hilarious performance). Danny is a transplant from New York, recently wealthy, holed up in an empty McMansion, playing his electric guitar in echoing rooms. For unknown reasons, he walks into Power 4 Life to sign up for training. Trevor, acting all shiny and inspirational in that desperate way that characterizes the anxious salesman, asks Danny what he's looking for and Danny, who does not know the lingo of wellness, says that he wants to know how to take a punch and not fall down. Trevor asks, "Have you spent much time in gyms?" Danny laughs scornfully, saying, "Fuck no." Behind Trevor's desk is a poster declaring "NO FEAR EXCUSES SURRENDER," but Trevor's head blocks Danny's view, and Danny expresses confusion why the poster says "FEAR EXCUSES SURRENDER." This small comedic "bit" encapsulates the gap of understanding between the two men. They both speak English, but they can barely understand one another. Kat is assigned to train Danny.
Kat's training sessions with Danny have a similar gap of understanding. Danny does what Kat tells him to do, but her inspirational language doesn't make a dent. It's all empty to him. He starts to obsess on her, watching Youtube videos of her workouts. It's creepy, but in a benign way. Besides, she's drawn to him too. What's Danny's deal? In the middle of the night he puts out messages on a local message board: "I will give you $200 if you set up my television." Someone shows up to do that. "I will give you $200 if you give me a cat." A cat shows up at the door. Danny's journey is so bizarre (is he malevolent? is he just lonely?) that it creates its own force field of energy, and when the film moves away from him to detail the relationship between Kat and Trevor, the film loses some of its charge. Danny disappears from the film for a long period of time, and the film tips over without that counter-weight.