Sometimes having everything makes you empty. Such is the paradox explored in Andrew Bujalski’s “Results,” part fable, part human experiment in desire, fears and means, and perhaps the most offbeat love triangle to grace the screen since Joe Swanberg’s brew-mance “Drinking Buddies.” It’s an apt comparison too, with Swanberg a stalwart of the mumblecore filmmaking movement and Bujalski long considered its godfather with such lo-fi (and low-audio) efforts as “Funny Ha Ha” and “Computer Chess.” With “Results,” however, Boston-born and Harvard-educated Bujalski goes upscale with some A-minus-list actors and a bigger budget – although what that figure is seems to be a secret to all but Bujalski and the NSA.
Bujalski’s first film cost just $30,000 to make (it grossed about $75,000) and starred no-name actors; here he’s blessed with the reliable Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill in the “Avengers” movie and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television series) and character actor Kevin Corrigan (“Superbad” and “Goodfellas”) who steps to the fore and delivers a knockout performance. “Results” is based on the well-being fad, in which everyone wants to get physically and emotionally fit and fortified. Danny (Corrigan) newly and painfully out of a marriage he didn’t want to exit, transplants to Austin. He’s doughy, rich and angry. He also wants to be able to take a punch, so he signs up for a personal trainer at Power for Life, a boutique health spa run by Trevor (a gaunt and toned Pearce) who pushes the philosophy that wellness is more than physical beauty, even though his crew of crack coaches look like magazine cover specimens. The upbeat but aggressive Kat (Smulders) gets the assign and spends time at Danny’s palatial spread trying to get him lean and buff, but he drags her down into his routine of single-malt scotch and weed. Turns out she’s a bit depressed and angry too. If there’s a deadbeat client, Kat’s more than happy to switch over to into loan collector mode, and boy can she run – look out Lola, she’s on your tail.
Kat also has preexisting extracurricular involvement with Trevor, so one night while high and doing kegels when things veer into the physical with Danny, the whole fragile construct of boss, lover and client gets quickly complicated, which is exactly where Bujalski wants to take us – down into the troubled emotional world behind perfect physiques and limitless cash. Trevor, the rock for so much of the film, will jump at a dime to grow his business, and what initially comes off as infectious, opportune optimism sours as it runs close to smarmy shiller, though Trevor does adhere zealously to the principles he preaches. Danny begins using his money to influence the equation, with Kat the object of his parries. Thankfully, “Results” does not become a straight-ahead tug-of-war. It’s a much more subtle and affecting odyssey of the soul, moving in pleasantly unpredictable turns that, while they don’t always make logical sense, are palpably driven by the heart.
Bujalski’s use of music – especially the jazzy drum beat that seems lifted from “Whiplash” – propels the quest for personal betterment and happiness with an undeniable cadence and power. It’s brilliant, as is the chemistry among the three performers, who do so much in small moments. The ending may leave you a bit wanting, but as is, this seems to be Bujalski’s sweet spot. He’ll certainly get offers from out west after this one; I just hope he doesn’t go all in, because I fear his quirky, poetic take on the human condition will get lost in the L.A. smog.