'Results' (R)

Results confirms the promise of writer-director Andrew Bujalski, whose previous feature, Computer Chess, was one of the unexpected highlights of 2013. Working with a bigger budget on a broader canvas, and dealing with completely different subject matter, Bujalski still imparts his distinct worldview and sense of humor.

This artistic personality is unique and worth describing. It’s funny, but without jokes. Bujalski creates situations in which it would be perfectly appropriate to laugh at any particular point, but there are no punch lines. There’s an absurdist edge, but with nothing of the smart-aleck about it. Rather than use wit as a way of bypassing thought and emotion, Bujalski’s concerns are serious, and his attitude toward his characters is warm without being indulgent.

Results revolves around three people, all in different states of need and all in varying states of awareness about that need. Kevin Corrigan, who is like the male Parker Posey — that is, the best actor regularly working in independent films — plays Danny, a multimillionaire, who decides he needs to get into shape. So he goes to a gym, owned by a would-be fitness guru, Trevor (Guy Pearce), and buys a year’s worth of private sessions with a personal trainer.

The personal trainer, Kat (Cobie Smulders), is rigorous and high-strung and seems to be channeling her anger and life dissatisfaction into her workouts. In disposition, she is the opposite of the millionaire, who is laid back and self-effacing, and so lethargic that you have to wonder how he made his money.

At a certain point, you realize that each of the three characters has something that the other wants. The millionaire wants Kat or just wants love. Kat wants a relationship with Trevor, and Trevor wants what the millionaire has, which is money to expand his business and fulfill his dreams. But all the characters remain, at least to some degree, in the dark about their own motives and deepest desires.

These mini-dramas are set against the world of bodybuilding and personal training, a microcosm with its own lingo and mythology. Success is all about goals and having a purpose, about visualizing an ideal self and working toward it. Bujalski doesn’t satirize that, exactly — there’s nothing wrong with being in shape and having fitness goals, after all.

But the movie does suggest that sometimes the lingo of self-actualization can prevent the real thing from happening, that imposing a predetermined narrative on our lives can block out the whispers of the heart that tell us what we really need to be doing. The idea is that, in the end, everybody has work to do on themselves, and pretty much nobody wants to do it, because it’s hard.

And the hard work isn’t just physical. The physical aspect is the easy part.

Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan.

Writer-director: Andrew Bujalski.

A Magnolia Pictures release. Running time: 105 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, drug use. In Miami-Dade only: Cosford Cinema.

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