While he's more widely known for straight, grim roles as a by-the-books police lieutenant, a murder investigator with short-term memory loss, and a filthy bandit in late-1800s Australia, Guy Pearce also has a certain grasp on comedic timing that rarely comes to the surface in his recent work. Some of it emerged in his rambunctious actioner Lockout, along with an uptick in muscle mass, but the ridiculous film surrounding his charismatic take on a Snake Plisskin-esque renegade in space managed to bring everything else down. Results, the fitness-based romantic comedy from Andrew Bujalski, couldn't be more different in premise than Pearce's sci-fi action flick, yet they share some similarities in their ratios of overall strengths and weaknesses. Despite Pearce's embodiment of a tangible, genuine persona with a humorous streak and a fierce physique, the problematic things happening around his character that are responsible for the story's conflicts leave Results in a flummoxed, generally unamusing shape.
Pearce plays Trevor, the owner and active manager of the Power 4 Life gym and wellness center, a business in Texas that offers both classes inside the establishment and personal trainer sessions at the clients' homes or other gyms. Despite his rigorous dogma about keeping things professional around his business, he can't keep from letting his personal relationship with his star instructor, Kat (Cobie Smoulders), interfere with the businesses' day-to-day activities. Kat, an all-week workaholic who continues to run and exercise in her spare time to burn off stress, insists that she take on yet another client: a recently-divorced, unemployed but wealthy guy named Danny (Kevin Corrigan), whose mix of introversion and a desire to build a new, durable life for himself gives off an oddly appealing vibe. Despite Trevor's opposition to the idea, Kat starts training the recent divorcee; however, things turn personal when Danny misinterprets signals and approaches his instructor from a romantic angle.
Once an amateur bodybuilder himself, Guy Pearce brings intensity and nuance to the Power 4 Life owner, fleshing out the side of Results that's rooted in the business of wellness and discipline. Typically the butt of jokes in other films, the "inspirational" angle of Trevor's business model takes the spoofing of exercise philosophies down a few notches, to a point that smartly toes the line between satirical humor and a realistic take on the CrossFit and Planet Fitness mantras. Underneath the glaring yellow outfits and the motivational posters lies a dedicated but stunted entrepreneur who believes what he preaches, who goes home alone to a lovable lug of a dog and lackadaisically hammers on a drum set that's likely a relic of a failed attempt at an off-duty hobby. Getting these details right is crucial since it provides a champion for a work ethic that's easy to either mock or desire, credibly realized by Pearce's responses to Danny as a prospective client and to Kat as someone with a stern, perfunctory outlook on training.
Results would've been far better off had it stuck to isolating its focus on the romantic tension between Trevor and Kat as they struggle under the Power 4 Life values, dealing with the everyday rigors of their clients while the differences in their age and dedication levels escalated alongside the business. Hoping to inject further complexity into the characters through flawed, slice-of-life glimpses, writer-director Bujalski also explores the lethargic and glum side of Danny's post-divorce life and how his loneliness parallels with the others, fueled by an easy answer to his bottomless wealth -- which does, indeed, become quite important later on -- and his misguided advances towards his new female trainer. Unsupported by the script's mild humor and deliberate awkwardness, Kat's handling of the complicated situation forms her into a frustrating, inconsistent mess of character, one whose reckless decisions both seem out-of-place and assertively undercut the film's genuine intentions. Cobie Smulders' stable but overly stringent performance, one with even less warmth than her roles in How I Met Your Mother and The Avengers, really doesn't help matters.
Unforeseeable business deals, surreal sequences in Trevor's mind, and a relatively subversive training montage might flex some distinctive muscle in Results, but those strengths are constantly fighting against a deflated tone and the film's insecurity over what kind of rom-com it wants to be. The clout that Kevin Corrigan brings to Danny gets obscured by Andrew Bujalski's wobbly vagueness over whether this will end up being an underdog story for the flabby, solemn divorcee or a meeting of minds between Kat and Trevor, mustering little more than a few cracked smiles on the road towards its more romantic inclinations (and towards a quirky dinner scene featuring Anthony Michael Hall as a thick-accented kettlebell expert). Once the meandering story reaches a certain point, it's tough not to drop any investment in the other elements of the Power 4 Life network and simply root for Trevor to achieve his own goals, losing the baggage he's amounted along the way. Things don't really play out like that, but at least Results ends on an optimistic-enough note -- arguably unearned -- about the gains that eventually come after all the pain.
Video and Audio:
Results sneaks in a low-impact Blu-ray session through a tolerable 1.85:1-framed, 180p AVC digital transfer. The film's visual style slants towards a lot of warmth and depth in skin tones, which are capable rendered by Magnolia's Blu-ray in response to the desired lighting temperature of each sequence: dialed-up in dream sequences, a little more restrained in dimmer glimpses at Danny's gloomy bachelor pad. Rich blues, reds, and yellows emerge from the workout equipment, especially during Anthony Michael Hall's high-contrast workout videos, while subtle shades of blue in skies peak out from the thick warmth that coats exterior sequences. Fine detail emerges at expected times, during close-ups on faces and on Danny's guitars, and depth of image is generally convincing. Black levels skew rather light, though, and the different temperatures of the sequences can alter the shade of the contrast, often appearing a little blue or green. Overall, however, it' s an appealing image from Magnolia.
The surround stage doesn't get a full workout from the DTS-HD Master Audio track, somewhat predictable based on the film's moderate objective, but it puts in a strong effort in the zones where it matters. Dialogue stays razor-sharp and responsive to the lower-frequency channel, reacting well to environments wherever needed. There's a lot of clarity and buoyancy in the frequent songs used throughout the film, too, though that's generally because it's replicating the effect of listening to tunes while running or watching an fitness video. Separation across the front channels happens on occasion with some ambient sounds -- cars driving by, music from radios, weights slamming -- but activity to the rears is limited to the music being played. Everything stays strong here that needs to stay strong. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available.
Extras run pretty light for Results, spearheaded by a series of press-kit Interviews (34:53 total, 16x9 HD) featuring cast members and writer/director Andrew Bujalski. Much of the content covers general information about their characters and mundane thematic points, but some fun insights about workout routines, how Bujalski hooked up with Guy Pearce, the presence of Stallone's Rocky flicks in the creative process, and the assortment of nice stories about what drew the actors to the project -- especially the rather specific, racy one from Constance Zimmer. Also included are the pseudo-blooper reel Getting Results: Shecky and Raymond (4:49, 16x9) that showcases the, uh, difficulties in working with animal actors, a series of three Fitness Promotional Videos (3:11 total, 16x9 HD) used during the film, and a Theatrical Trailer (2:16, 16x9 HD).
Results takes a strong core idea and vibrant actors in a mix of rewarding and unsatisfying directions, largely because it doesn't know what to do with its bulky tone or the trajectory of its dramatic rom-com endeavors. Perhaps it's because writer-director Andrew Bujalski really wanted to take the triangle of a gym owner, his star instructor, and a wealthy-yet-gloomy new client in unexpected directions, which it does; however, the directions it goes are questionable and seemingly incongruous, and the fact that the humor level tends to be incredibly low-key and situationally awkward works against that. Guy Pearce and the presence he commands with his Power 4 Life brand is effortlessly watchable and genuine, though, and not without a few valid observations on depression, dedication, and disappointment. Magnolia's Blu-ray looks and sounds just fine, with about a half-hour of interviews worth skimming afterwards. Worth a Rental.