Cobie Smulders never walks in Results if she can jog, never jogs if she can run, and when forced to sit prefers to settle her sweatpants on an exercise ball. Guy Pearce, who is older and better socialized but equally committed to personal improvement, conducts most of his conversations on the balls of his feet, as if wanting to illustrate his words with a little shadowboxing. At moments of high emotion, he will grab a ceiling bar in mid-sentence and perform intricate airborne torture on his abs.
He is Trevor, the sincerely uplifting owner of a fitness club in Austin, Texas, and she is Kat, his star trainer (if she says so herself) and the self-appointed disciplinarian of all humankind. Neither can stay still for longer than it takes to enjoy a cool, tall glass of mashed chlorophyll; and yet you can’t imagine an unpleasant odor rising from these beautiful people, even at their most glistening. The scent of overpowered deodorant and long frustration that occasionally wafts from Results emanates exclusively from Danny (Kevin Corrigan), the gym’s strangest, saddest, flabbiest, and most troublesome client, and ultimately its most enlivening.
Not that Danny seems likely to redeem anybody, himself least of all, when he first shuffles into the gym’s office, to slouch next to a life-size plastic model of the human spine and pelvis and blink at Trevor’s yellow T-shirt and positive attitude. What will be Danny’s goal in beginning a fitness program? Trevor asks brightly, bouncing the helpful jargon of managerial science off his perfect teeth. Danny stares, then mumbles, “I wanna be able to take a punch,” in the tone of someone who’s already absorbed a few. His gaze is as unembarrassed as the uncombed tufts of his thinning hair; his speech pattern as unrushed and off-kilter as his gait. As if to make sure he’s been understood, Danny mimes smacking himself in the jaw a few times.
Just as you and Trevor are beginning to wonder if you’re dealing with a mentally deficient bum, Danny volunteers, “I got money,” and contracts for private lessons. When Kat shows up for the first—having bullied the entire gym into letting her claim the new client—she finds Danny’s cavernous McMansion empty except for a scattering of furniture still covered in plastic, a freshly wall-mounted TV, and a complete set of exercise equipment. Asking if he can pay in advance, he writes a check for two years.
A kindhearted comedy about people who work fiercely toward physical perfection and business success, and about the blessings brought to them by a man who pursues neither, Results is writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s latest foray into the byways of American subculture. In his previous film, Computer Chess, he brilliantly recreated the milieu of the grad-school coding nerds of a generation ago. In Results, he gets his fun from a social niche that is more widely shared and contemporary but no less idiosyncratic.
Could any country besides ours have inspired a UK immigrant like Trevor to create the Power 4 Life gym? (The “4,” he eagerly explains, signifies physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength.) In case you don’t know the answer, you find out when Trevor drives halfway across Texas to visit his hero, a Russian exercise master (Anthony Michael Hall), only to hear this more skeptical immigrant laugh at America’s faith in limitless individual achievement. (“Choose your misery” sums up the Russian’s worldview. “You can cry, or you can work.”) Even within our endlessly optimistic nation, among that relatively small slice of the population with money, time, and energy to spend on exercise classes, membership in the onward-and-upward club is not universal. Look at the lapsed client whom Kat chases down on the street, catching her with a cupcake in her SUV. Look at the man who tells Kat he’s quitting the program—quitting!—because “you can’t do this your whole life.” Look at Danny.