Boston-born filmmaker Andrew Bujalski was hoping that Results would be his mainstream breakthrough. It belongs to a real-deal commercial genre (it’s a romantic comedy where Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan all swap partners in between workouts at a hip Austin gym) and it’s his first movie to feature recognizable actors. But he made a mistake. He put too much of himself into it.
“For better or worse, I expected less of my voice to show up in this movie,” he admits to us over the phone—before going on to half-jokingly suggest that said voice is what’s keeping him from directing movies that get anything other than a limited release.
He should’ve known this wouldn’t be the one to get his name onto multiplex marquees. Make no mistake, we love Results: it’s one of our favorite movies of the year, and we’ve raved about it already. But it’s a meeting point between commercial filmmaking and Bujalski’s idiosyncratic sensibilities—he’s interested in the stuttering awkwardness that clouds contemporary conversation, and in a way that’s colored by the regions his films take place in—rather than a triumph of the former over the latter. He tells us early on that his film is quite specific not just to Austin, but to a specific social subculture within Austin. So much for playing to the cheap seats.
Your films have always felt like they’re very specific to the communities in which they take place. But then Results belongs to a commercial genre more than any of those other movies. Do you consider it as a quote-unquote “Austin movie”?
Well, all my films ultimately become place-specific. Funny Ha Ha didn’t have to be Boston—but once we were shooting it there, it became a very Boston movie. I try to allow place into the narrative.
But this one … there are versions of this everywhere, because it’s just 21st century culture … but Austin is the birthplace of Whole Foods. So I think there’s a specific-to-Austin version of this fusion between hippie and yuppie culture. And I felt we had our own little twist on it. Slacker was, is, and always will be the ultimate Austin movie. But quite a bit has changed since then, and there’s a lot of “new Austin” that I haven’t seen on-screen.
Another thing that’s consistent in your films: You often follow a character who’s being indoctrinated into a social or professional subculture. So do you immerse yourself in these scenes, or are you just an observer?
Oh, I’m a tourist. I mean, I’m never going to be a hardcore gym guy. But Guy Pearce was a teenage bodybuilder! So it was great to draw on his knowledge, because he does know that world much deeper than I ever could or would. Anything I’ve ever done, even if they’re just “everyday folks,” you need the actors to be experts at whatever [job] they’re doing.
Do you feel like the way the three main characters in Results talk and communicate is significantly different from the way that characters communicate in your other movies?
Uhh …. maybe? Some of the characters were built for these specific performers. With anything that I do, I’m hoping to get the best out of people. I ask myself what it is about them that I love in the first place—and what about that can I pull out and put up onscreen.
Apropos of nothing, there’s one specific moment I’d like to ask about. Trevor starts to see hallucinations of his gym logo in his house. Normally you’re camera is pretty objective. But here we’re in his head… right?
I wanted a playfulness. And I wanted to leave everything on the table. The first three movies [Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation, Beeswax] are so performance-centric. They lived and died on their performances—and all of the visual design was mostly just about getting out of the way. Obviously I was trying to do good, thoughtful work with the camera and the editing. But that work was always meant to be invisible, or was meant to feed attention to the actors.
Even that moment is about that character, though. That guy is so much about self-actualization—he’s about visualizing something, and then making it a reality. I’m fascinated by that person, and that ethos. This idea that all you have to do is speak your desire with enough intention, and it will come to you. Because I think there’s a truth to that, and also an insanity to it. So for this guy, we can say it’s subjective, and we can say we’re in his head. But for Trevor, at that moment, that visualization is as true as anything else.
Would you say this movie—despite flourishes like that, and its many strange grace notes—is a romantic comedy?
I call it a romantic comedy. I guess it’s kind of a disgrace to the genre. But then I don’t think I’ve paid to see a romantic comedy in the past 20 years. I like the idea of them. As far as the major genres go, they’re the only one rooted in human foibles.
Some moments even seem like they may be parodies of that genre’s conventions.
I was certainly trying to steal the energy of classic romantic comedies, so that I could twist it to my own nefarious purposes.
From start-to-finish—from when you decided to make a romantic comedy til when you completed the project—what came out different than what you expected?
For better or worse, I expected less of my voice to show up in this movie. I didn’t think this was my ticket to directing studio blockbusters, but I wouldn’t mind having something that plays in that marketplace. I would like for people who like conventional romantic comedies to come see this one, and I hope that some of those people enjoy themselves. I’m not trying to push them away, I promise. So it’s funny—I saw one review of it that called it weirder than [my last movie] Computer Chess. On one hand, that’s exciting to me. On the other, I think “Oh, shit. There goes my Hollywood career.”
RESULTS. RATED R. NOW PLAYING AT THE KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA. 355 BINNEY ST., CAMBRIDGE. ALSO AVAILABLE ON VOD OUTLETS.