Sunday, May 31, 2015

Results: When what you want is what you get

Left to right, actors Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan and writer-director Andrew Bujalski discuss Results.

Danny wants his ex-wife back. Trevor wants to expand his business and take his relationship to the next level. Kat does not know what she wants, but she knows she wants whatever it is on her terms. All the characters in writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s new romantic comedy Results are looking for something to fill the void in their lives; however, they refuse to question if what they are pining after will actually be good for them.

Bujalski and two of the film’s stars, Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, were in New York City on Friday night to screen the film and stayed for a question-and-answer session after. The half-hour discussion covered topics from the decline of studio romantic comedies to American archetypes to new models of distribution, with a few odd digressions in between.

This is the fifth feature film from the fiercely independent Bujalski, whose previous efforts helped define the Mumblecore movement. With Pearce, Corrigan, and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as his leads, Results could be Bujalski’s biggest, most crowd-pleasing film yet and the first one that could perhaps be mistaken for a big-studio effort. It is fitting, then, that he chose one of Hollywood’s oldest and most maligned genres to make the jump.

“I think romantic comedy in this day and age is a pretty disgraced genre,” said Bujalski. “Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I paid to see one. They’ve gotten pretty awful, and Hollywood doesn’t make them anymore for whatever economic reasons. But, there’s something about the genre that always appealed to me. Largely, of all your classic genres, it’s the one that is rooted in human foible. What always makes them go is people not understanding themselves or thinking they want something but they really want something else. That’s fertile territory. That’s something that I can play around with.”

In Results, there is human foible to spare as the newly wealthy Danny (Corrigan) pulls Trevor (Pearce) and Kat (Smulders) into his orbit. With the death of his mother, Danny inherits a fortune. He goes to the gym Trevor owns, Power 4 Life, ostensibly to get in shape so he can win his ex-wife back, but his stated goal is that he wants to be able to take a punch. Whether literally or metaphorically, Danny is a guy who has been knocked down by life more than once. At her own insistence, Kat is the personal trainer assigned to help him.

The problem is Danny would rather eat pizza, smoke pot, and spend his money accumulating worthless junk to fill his empty, rented mansion. He knows he shouldn’t, but he does anyway. Danny is the epitome of this attitude, but all the film’s characters engage in behaviors they know are harmful. They either cannot help themselves or do not want to change, but whatever their reasons, they are not living their lives optimally.

This is not new territory for characters in a romantic comedy or any film, for that matter, but Bujalski’s twist is to set the film in the world of personal fitness and to make Trevor a true believer in his methods. Trevor genuinely thinks he can help people achieve a kind of holistic wellness through his fitness program. For a jock, he sure is a bit of a dork, spouting catch phrases and generic self-help advice at every opportunity, but because he believes it and Pearce sells it, Trevor never comes off as anything other than sincere. Corrigan had some kind, somewhat self-effacing words that summed up Pearce’s performance.

Pearce, Corrigan, and Bujalski at the IFC Center.
“I did watch some of Guy’s films before we went to work on this film,” said Corrigan. “You can take your pick, which Guy Pearce films you want to watch. There’s so many to choose from … and I just kind of spun the wheel. I wanted to see Factory Girl, and there he is as Andy Warhol, and it didn’t prepare me at all to work with Trevor. Now that we’re promoting Results, I see Trevor as a beautiful Pop Art creation, almost like one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup [cans].

“It’s just a perfect representation of a kind of American archetype. Trevor is just so perfectly representative of a certain kind of character. In my striving to be Danny, I wasn’t going for anything like that. I was trying to be relaxed – because to me, that’s what the goal of acting is: to just relax – but he was doing a whole picture.”

For his part, Pearce was a bit embarrassed at the praise and said as much. He deferred to Bujalski’s script in helping him create the character of Trevor. In fact, Bujalski, who may be most famous for working with unknown actors or untrained non-professionals, wrote Results with Pearce and Corrigan in mind, and while the movie has a free-wheeling, improvisational nature to it, both actors and Bujalski confirmed everything stuck pretty closely to the script as written.

“I feel like the majority of it was there on the page,” said Pearce. “Andrew and I, we had an interesting experience because we talked about this. We had talked about this a couple years ago on something else, which never quite eventuated – or at all eventuated – and then, this came up. Andrew sent it to me, and I was really honored and flattered to take it on.

Corrigan plays Danny, and Pearce is Trevor in Results.
“I like to really understand, I suppose, to quite a large degree who it is that I’m going to play. I certainly can’t turn up and expect there to be sort of major left turns. … I’ve spent a bit of time in my life in gyms, in and out of gyms, being either obsessively fit or mildly fit or ‘ugh,’ kind of completely over it. But, for 30 years, I’ve been in and out of gyms, so it was a world that I felt that I knew to a degree, and it was very easy for me to imagine this character anyway and particularly in the way that I think Andrew had expressed him on the page with all the complexities of what Trevor was hiding, even if he didn’t realize he was hiding it. So, I felt like most of it was there and ready to go.”

In addition to working with bigger-name actors and operating within a better defined genre, Bujalski’s latest is also getting one of the biggest releases for any of his films, though that is probably due in part to those previous two factors. The film is in New York and Los Angeles right now and will open in other big cities over the next few weeks. The movie is also available to watch at home on demand, a distribution strategy that likely means more people will see Results than otherwise might have but about which Bujalski expressed less enthusiasm than resignation.

“Cherish it while you got it,” said Bujalski about seeing new films in cinemas. “I’m a 20th century kind of guy. The movie is on demand today … All your friends who live in Marfa, Texas, seven hours’ drive from Austin [where Results is set], they can get it on demand right now. They’ve probably already seen it, and it’s great. I’m all for that. I am from the 20th century, and I like to do this. I like to sit in a dark room and have communion with strangers. I think that’s the way to watch a movie, but I don’t begrudge the future. They can have it, their futuristic way. That’s fine. Everybody can have what they want.”

It is an aptly on-point message from the writer-director of Results – that everybody can have what they want. Much like Danny, Trevor, and Kat, the movie’s audience will have access to what it wants – in this case, Results – but is watching a movie at home, no matter how big your screen, really the outcome any of us might desire? Sure, audiences get a new movie from a talented young filmmaker, and the movie gets a wider audience. Everybody wins, to a degree, but that might not be what is best for any of us.

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

Results is a rebuttal to movies filled with charismatic women and men that always have a clever quip on the edge of their tongue.