Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Andrew Bujalski Veers Closer to Mainstream with Results

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 9:10 AM

Cobie Smulders leaves guys in her dust in Results. - COURTESY MAGNOLIA PICTURES/RYAN GREEN
  • Courtesy Magnolia Pictures/Ryan Green
  • Cobie Smulders leaves guys in her dust in Results.

A realistically shaded romcom, Results represents a tentative move into Hollywood-style filmmaking by mumblecore pioneer Andrew Bujalski, whose Funny Ha Ha helped launch that ill-defined "genre" of miserablist seriocomedies about unmoored young adults drifting through life. This transition scarcely qualifies as a surprise: The DIY approach of mumblecore — hand-held camerawork, lo-fi video, naturalistic performances, collaborative creation, amateur actors — was always as much a function of available resources as a conscious Dogme-like aesthetic, and, in their more recent work, the principal filmmakers associated with the movement (Joe Swanberg, Lynn Shelton, the Duplass brothers) have happily incorporated the name actors and the enhanced production values afforded by bigger budgets.

Despite his foundational role, Bujalski didn't always fit so neatly into the mumblecore box — he shot on 16mm, not video, and although his dialogue may have sounded improvised because of its realistic rhythms, it was largely scripted. In his previous film, Computer Chess, Bujalski had even pivoted away from mumblecore's typical concerns with an affectionate dissection of nerd culture. A deadpan-funny mockumentary set in 1980, Computer Chess was also something of a formalist experiment, with its deliberately smudgy black-and-white images captured with the rudimentary Sony cameras of the proto-video era. Results, therefore, can be seen as a retrenchment, returning the writer-director to the familiar territory of earlier films, which were characterized by their thoughtful explorations of evolving relationships.

What primarily distinguishes Results from Bujalski's other work is its highly polished look, its recognizable co-stars and its reasonable simulation of a traditional romantic-comedy plot. Indie stalwart Kevin Corrigan — usually relegated to background status as a profane, dyspeptic supporting character — receives a much deserved turn in the spotlight as Danny, a wealthy layabout. Still despondent over his recent divorce — even the fortune he's unexpectedly inherited can't ease his melancholy — Danny has decamped from New York to Austin with the vague hope of a fresh start. Rambling about his rented manse where his empty days are mostly filled with dope-smoking and TV-watching, Danny impulsively decides to hire a personal trainer from the fitness center run by earnest Trevor (Guy Pearce), who approaches his job with an evangelist's fervor. Among Trevor's employees is Kat (How I Met Your Mother's Cobie Smulders), a frank-talking, hard-bodied trainer who's as brutally pragmatic as her boss — and occasional booty call — is sincerely idealistic. When Kat begins visiting her new client for his private sessions, Danny quickly develops an inappropriate romantic interest, leading to a fraught triangle with Trevor, whose feelings for her go beyond the sexual.

Unlike the farcical complications of most romantic comedies, the roadblocks to love's fulfillment in Results seem organic and almost painfully realistic. The film also entertainingly inverts convention by having the men helplessly moon over Kat, who remains emotionally withholding and resolutely averse to commitment. She's not quite a feminist role model — in fact, there's a self-sabotaging aspect to her uncompromising, take-no-bullshit stances — but we can't help but admire Kat's defiant refusal to conform to societal expectations.

In addition to its trio of fine lead performances, Results features a pair of delightful minor roles for two other Hollywood recruits: Giovanni Ribisi's bottom-feeding lawyer and Anthony Michael Hall's pumped-up fitness guru. Although some indie absolutists may be disappointed in Bujalski's mainstreaming, his film's sly subversion and consistent (if gentle) laughs make for undeniably pleasing Results.

Cliff Froehlich is executive director of Cinema St. Louis, which presents the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase from July 19-23.

Results Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski. Starring Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan and Anthony Michael Hall. Opens Friday, June 19, at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Boulevard, University City. Call 314-727-7271 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com.

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