SXSW 2015: Andrew Bujalski, Welcome to the Club of Big-Deal Texas Filmmakers
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The list of big-time filmmakers who claim Texas as their base is relatively short. There’s Richard Linklater, obviously, and Robert Rodriguez; Terrence Malick, David Gordon Green, and Jeff Nichols; Mike Judge and Rob Thomas, though they seem more focused on TV right now; and, well, we still tend to claim Wes Anderson, even though his movies haven’t been set in Texas in a long time and he doesn’t spend much time here. Beyond that, there are a lot of Texans making movies that are worth paying attention to, but not many more making films that capture the attention of the movie-going public.
But we should probably add Andrew Bujalski’s name to that first list now.
Bujalski’s latest film, Results, opened at SXSW over the weekend. It’s a significant step up for the Austin filmmaker. His last project, 2013’s decidedly quirky indie Computer Chess, was shot in an Austin hotel on a black and white camera from the sixties, with a cast that featured few faces familiar to fans of film (Wiley Wiggins, a collaborator of Linklater’s in the nineties, was probably the only recognizable face to most). But Computer Chess found its audience, winning a feature prize at Sundance that year, and shifting Bujalski from the category of “guy worth paying attention to” to “let’s see what you’ve got.”
What Bujalski’s got with Results is a big, weird rom-com set in Austin and Marfa, with very funny movie stars—Guy Pearce, The Avengers’ Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan among them—taking the same sort of singular vision Bujalski showcased in Computer Chess but turning it into something very accessible.
The film stars Pearce and Smulders as personal trainers in an Austin gym and Corrigan as a wealthy client looking to burn an unexpected inheritance on something productive. The three get involved in a love/business/friendship triangle, and things come to a head during a road trip to Marfa. That’s a fairly conventional-sounding set up, but the magic of Results is the way that it uses rom-com tropes (and stars) to create something that’s as weird, in its own way, as Computer Chess. As pop culture blog Vulture wrote after the film’s Sundance premiere in January:
Set in the world of Texas fitness instructors and starring some big-name actors, Andrew Bujalski’s Results looks at first like a concerted attempt to cross over into the world of mainstream rom-coms. But look again. Bujalski, a onetime “mumblecore” wunderkind (yeah, though he hates the M-word, and with good reason), has always toyed structurally with familiar stories. And Results feels so free-form, so liberated from the shackles of genre, that it becomes its own wonderfully alive and unpredictable thing. Plus, it’s funny as shit. [...]
Most other filmmakers would treat this burgeoning love triangle in the usual way — intercutting between these characters and following their intertwined journeys as they hit the typical romantic beats. Bujalski seems to have little interest in that. He’s content to drop certain key characters for vast stretches of the story, seemingly letting the relationships dictate the structure, almost like a jazzman riffing instead of a purposeful storyteller.
Other reviews have been similarly impressed with Results for its ability to merge genuine weirdness with a mainstream sensibility. The ultra-hip Black Book magazine declared it one of “The Sundance 2015 Films Everyone Will Be Talking About,” while Variety called Results a “delightfully low-key affair” that “will easily be seen by more people than Bujalski’s first four feature films combined.”
It’s always exciting when an idiosyncratic filmmaker—like Linklater, Anderson, or Judge—is able to introduce his unique sensibility to a the wider world. Results could well turn out to be Bujalski’s Dazed & Confused.