RESULTS  * * * 1 / 2

Starring Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Michael Hall. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski.

Reports of the romantic comedy’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, I’ve spilled lots of virtual ink lately complaining about talented folks in movies like They Came Together and Playing It Cool attempting to snarkily meta-deconstruct the rom-com when their time would probably be more wisely spent just trying to make a decent one. (And I suppose we in the cultural commentariat will continue mulling over whatever the fuck Aloha was.) But meanwhile, that slippery, protean filmmaker Andrew Bujalski has come up with Results, the most straightforward, purely enjoyable romantic comedy I’ve seen in ages.

Given that this pioneer of the microbudget, so-called “mumblecore” movement’s previous picture was the cosmic whatzit Computer Chess – shot on antique video equipment, starring nonprofessional actors and a film critic – it’s initially startling to find Bujalski working here with famous movie stars, slick production values and a tripod. But what makes Results so special is that it delivers all the conventional rom-com satisfactions while also stubbornly being it’s own unique thing. He has respect for the genre, yet brings an experimental filmmaker’s curiosity to the table.

He also doesn’t overcomplicate stuff. Bujalski is shrewd enough to understand that what we really want from a movie like this is two likable people we can root for to fall in love, and he’s got a couple of beauties in Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders.

Pearce plays Trevor, proprietor of an upstart Austin fitness club called Power 4 Life. It’s not just a job for him – it’s a philosophical manifesto. He speaks in self-help platitudes, as if all of life’s problems can be solved by good nutrition, positive thinking and the right workout regimen. Trevor posts epic-length inspirational YouTube videos and his default conversational mode seems set to “pep talk.” One can easily imagine him as the subject of ridicule in a lousy Hollywood farce, but Bujalski takes him at face value. Trevor’s the rare salesman who buys what he’s selling, and Pearce brings a beguiling decency to the performance. Maybe it’s because he gets to use his own Aussie accent for a change, but I’ve never seen this angsty actor so relaxed and endearing.

Smulders co-stars as Kat, the most high-strung of Trevor’s employees. A workaholic bordering on manic, she’s one of those people so hell-bent on never coming off as vulnerable that she’s practically quaking with insecurity. Smulders has the unpredictable energy of a more serrated Diane Keaton, making it an even bigger shame that she spends most of her time onscreen these days as Anonymous Exposition Lady in the Marvel movies.

Trevor and Kat sleep together sometimes, which afterwards they always chalk up to a natural side-effect of “two fit, attractive people getting sweaty at work.” They’re both too caught up in their own heads and their carefully planned personal regimens to even consider disrupting routine with romance, until chaos arrives in the form of Kevin Corrigan’s Danny.

You’ll probably recognize Corrigan as the third guy from the left in just about every indie movie made in the nineties, the dude stealing scenes with his slightly space-shot, behind-the-beat line readings. Here he plays a recently divorced, transplanted New Yorker who just unexpectedly inherited a fortune and has no idea what to do with it. Danny rattles around his empty, rented McMansion playing guitar and offering strangers on Craigslist two hundred dollars if they’ll come over and show him how to turn on his giant new television.

Danny ends up at Power 4 Life because he wants to “learn how to take a punch.” He’s also lonely. In Trevor, he finds a pal and potential business partner. In Kat, he finds a new crush. But all this is thrown for a loop when Danny figures out what we in the audience could see from the opening scenes: these two are clearly crazy about each other.

The rest of Results is Corrigan playing the millionaire fairy godmother, wheedling ways to fix them up while Pearce and Smulders do their damnedest to try and to talk themselves out of what they’re obviously feeling. It’s adorable.

Bujalski approaches his characters and their off-beat Austin milieu with a generosity we seldom see in pictures like this one. He’s a filmmaker who seems to genuinely like people — a far rarer quality than you might expect. The movie finds time for supporting turns by Giovanni Ribisi as a stoned lawyer and (of all folks) Anthony Michael Hall as a Teutonic TV fitness guru. When all is said and done, he even lets the cast dance their way clear through the closing credits, as if nobody wanted the party to end.

I know I didn’t.

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