In a year when there are more new film releases than ever (18 this week, not including event cinema broadcasts such as the Met Opera), some are bound to get overlooked. Even I, as a loyal fan of the US writer-director Andrew Bujalski, didn’t know that his latest easygoing comedy, Results, had already been and gone at the cinema. Fortunately it’s out now on DVD.
It is Bujalski’s glossiest film to date, with his most experienced cast, and appears to the casual observer to be a standard, chirpy rom-com. As with all Bujalski’s movies, looks can be deceiving. The stylistic shabbiness of his early work served as a smokescreen for the tautness of the construction, so that moments of emotional precision caught viewers off-guard. Results works in the opposite direction; the smooth facade of the movie only enhances its quirky surprises.
The central location is Power 4 Life, a gym in Austin, Texas run by the go-getting fitness guru Trevor (Guy Pearce), who dreams of expanding to include a juice bar and an on-site therapist. But there is disquiet in his ranks. One of his top personal trainers, Kat (Cobie Smulders), with whom Trevor has a complicated history, is being rather over-zealous in her commitment to the job – pursuing clients who haven’t paid their bills, haranguing those who’ve had enough of exercise (“Fuck you! You’re not a quitter!”). She also gets romantically involved briefly with a client, Danny (the endearing Kevin Corrigan), a doggedly unfit stoner who has become suddenly wealthy due to a combination of bad luck (his mother died) and good timing (his divorce came through a week before his windfall, so he doesn’t have to share the money).
The surface slickness should help ensure that Results gets a wider audience than Bujalski’s four previous films. It doesn’t have the scrappy, shoestring look of the tremendous opening hat-trick – Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation and Beeswax – which helped create the “mumblecore” mini-genre of shambolic independent comedies about shambolic independent twentysomethings.
Nor is Results as formally adventurous and skew-whiff as his fourth picture, Computer Chess, a study of Eighties tech geeks that was shot only on the equipment that would have been available at the time. In that picture, the cameras appeared to go rogue as the film progressed – it was as though they were removing control from human hands. Here the technical side is steady and dependable. It’s human beings who go rogue.
I loved the new film. It takes a while for Bujalski’s sensibility to bed down in the bright, zingy setting he has chosen for his story. The empty spaces, with their emphasis on open-plan fluidity, reflect the unformed personalities of the people who inhabit them; everyone here seems provisional and no one has quite worked out who they are or what they want.
The charitable bagginess of Bujalski’s world-view is at odds with the motivational vigour of the fitness industry, a tension mirrored nicely in the characters – Kat and Trevor have to learn to loosen up around Danny (the scene where Trevor tries to appear casual and unperturbed when Danny suggests he might attempt a reconciliation with his ex-wife is a corker).
And Danny has to meet them halfway. Physically he puts in the donkeywork, giving rise to one of the funniest training montages ever committed to film (“You’ve seen Rocky, right?” asks Trevor). Emotionally it takes a little longer. His attempts to lure Kat into a relationship are brilliantly misguided.
In turn, Trevor’s gentle efforts to retain Danny as a customer, even after things have gone as pear-shaped as the millionaire’s physique, form a different but no less touching sort of courtship. Bujalski might never crack Hollywood, but what does it matter? He’s defiantly his own man. Results gets results.
A very different but similarly overlooked film also out on DVD this month is the British thriller Catch Me Daddy. This arresting debut from the writer-director sibling team of Daniel and Matthew Wolfe brings together three disparate sets of people – a pair of grizzled, middle-aged white bruisers, a quartet of Asian men in their twenties and a young mixed-race couple holed up in a caravan on the moors – whose fates intersect over the course of several violent days in West Yorkshire.
It’s advisable to approach the movie without much prior knowledge: the tantalising reveal of connections between the characters is masterfully done. The sense of place and class, as well as the desperation in the lives here, is also expertly captured.
The Wolfes and their cinematographer, Robbie Ryan (best known for his work with Andrea Arnold) evoke a world that can be oppressively grim but also euphoric in its visual poetry. What saves the film from charges of miserablism is the insistence that wild beauty can still flourish even where it appears to have been most brutally stamped out.
Results and Catch Me Daddy are on DVD now.