No Core Strength, by Tyler Smith
There’s a shaggy dog quality to Andrew Bujalski’s Results that is hard to dislike. This is especially appreciated when one considers that it is a story revolving around personal trainers, whose job it is to appear confident and self-assured. In many ways, the tone and pacing of the film are refreshing. However, the film’s general lack of focus eventually feels less like a story being told than a series of events just kind of happening without any real motivation or much emotional payoff.
The story involves rich, recently-divorced schlub Danny (Kevin Corrigan) deciding he wants to get in shape, and joining a gym. The gym is run by upbeat Trevor (Guy Pearce), whose positive, no-pressure outlook runs counter to that of his most popular staff trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders), whose intensity is starting to alienate clients. Trevor and Kat’s professional relationship becomes strained, and they are forced to confront their complicated personal history and their possible romantic future.
The film shuffles along at a casual pace, which makes everything feel a bit more lived-in than your usual romantic comedy, but we soon find that there’s no real sense of urgency to the events of the film. Characters struggle with their feelings for one another, which is a perfectly fine idea to hang a story on. But scene after scene features the characters talking around something, in a pleasant-but-meandering way, only to have the scene abruptly end, as if Bujalski simply shrugged and thought, “Okay, that seems like a fine place to stop.”
Romantic awkwardness, stilted conversation, unresolved emotional issues. Great filmmakers have taken these and built wonderful movies around them. But underneath their shambling surface, these films have a strong core of character and motivation. The characters in Results do things for no apparent reason completely out of nowhere. It would seem that Bujalski’s technique is to throw a lot of character beats out there and let the actors tie them all together.
And, admittedly, the actors almost manage to pull it off. Kevin Corrigan utilizes his usual lowlife on-screen persona for maximum comedic effect, creating a character so bored with life that it almost takes on a Zen-like quality. Cobie Smulders crafts a character that can be lovable, even while being almost unbearably abrasive. Her frustration seems to come from being a severely intelligent person in the midst of shallow idiots.
Guy Pearce may have the hardest job of all, playing a would-be fitness guru whose positivity and confidence mask a deep insecurity. Trevor could have been a series of cheap pot shots at health experts and motivational speakers, but the film wisely takes him seriously, while also understanding that his bravado can sometimes be rather funny. Pearce takes these two conflicting character traits and ties them together, creating a man aware of how he sounds to others, but is convinced that he can win us over if he just tries hard enough. And, frankly, he kind of does. We start out a bit suspicious of Trevor, but are on his side by the end of the film.
The acting is by far the strongest element of Results, to such an extent that I feel like I should recommend it, despite major storytelling flaws. The film appears to be about these three lost souls, but it quickly turns into a two-person movie, with the third being largely forgotten for the last act. With characters as defined as this, it’s important that we feel like they’re in good hands, but we never feel like that. Andrew Bujalski attempts to juggle several balls, only to conclude that juggling is hard and lets them all fall to the ground. After a while, we start to wonder exactly why we’re watching these characters, since the filmmaker himself cares so little about them.