(Andrew Bujalski, 2015)
Bujalski pulls an abrupt hard left after the uniquely bizarre wonders of Computer Chess with this relatively slick rom-com. And yet the slickness is all in the production design and the sharp digital photography; underneath it feels strangely of a piece with his earlier, so-called "mumblecore" work, where people try to find happiness and stumble through relationships.
In this case those people are Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a stoner and recent divorcee who inherits a fortune from his estranged mother and has absolutely no idea what to do with it, so he spends it paying strangers off Craigslist $200 to fix his huge tv and decides to hire a personal trainer to get him in shape. That leads him to the gym owned by Trevor (Guy Pearce), who lives in shorts and a t-shirt and talks an awful lot about achieving "goals". He and Kat (Cobie Smulders) have an awkward relationship, having had an "unprofessional" affair some time before. When Kat becomes Danny's trainer, he is smitten, and that complicates her relationship with Trevor.
Classic eternal triangle stuff, then? Well; not really. The film seems to be heading one way before moving off in another entirely, portraying a realistically complex entanglement of friends, colleagues and lovers. These are people unsure of what they want or afraid to try and get it, people who blow their chances to communicate with one another repeatedly. Recognisably normal human beings, in other words.
Corrigan seizes a rare lead role with glee and plays Danny as a confused but likeable clown. Pearce is dryly hilarious as Trevor, and Smulders is perfect as Kat, all temper tantrums and spontaneous gestures she herself doesn't understand. Their relationship, filled as it is with conflict and longing, is beautifully nuanced by Bujalski, whose skill as a writer is growing.
Visually, he remains a little less convincing, although the way this film becomes more intimate and plays with space in his compositions is subtle and pleasing.