Andrew Bujalski on Subverting the Rom-Com and Making Kevin Corrigan a Movie Star in ‘Results’

“I wasn’t trying to be a jerk,” Andrew Bujalski tells me, and I believe him. We’re talking about his new movie Results, a sunny, bright, funny movie that looks at first like a pretty typical mainstream romantic comedy — it’s about a love triangle, and it stars Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce — which is kind of a shock after his last film, the daringly experimental (in both style and story) black-and-white-videotape comedy/drama Computer Chess. But past that surface, Bujalski says, he knew “this was going to be my own thing, and I wanted to do something looser and weird.” So it’s a rom-com, yes, but not a typical one — yet also, as Bujalski says, not a subversion in a “jerk”-y way. In fact, the key that unlocks his freewheeling approach to the form is the third point in the film’s love triangle, an eccentric millionaire played by the eccentric character actor Kevin Corrigan. His performance here is a revelation, with an oddness and unpredictability that comes to define the movie.

You know Kevin Corrigan. You might not know the name, but you’ve seen him in a million things: as little brother Mikey, stirring the sauce on the worst day of Ray Liotta’s life in Goodfellas; as Bill, the “Ugly Guy” at the video store in Walking and Talking; as Cousin Sean, who gets Leonardo DiCaprio to Jack Nicholson in The Departed; as Eddie on five seasons of Fox’s Grounded For Life. He’s a character actor, a “that guy,” and one who usually gives a jolt of energy and electricity when he appears onscreen. Those appearances are generally brief, the work of a gunslinger who shows up, does his thing, and disappears; this is probably his most high-profile role to date.

Kevin Corrigan and Guy Pearce in Andrew Bujalski's "Results"

Bujalski wrote the role for him (“I’ve been a fan of for 20 years”), as he did Pearce’s: “Just to imagine those two guys, and to think what movie could possibly contain or absorb both of them, I was already making myself laugh.”

“He wrote a part that played to my… it’s funny to say ‘strengths,’ unless my weaknesses are my strengths,” Corrigan told me. “He was excited by the idea of seeing me play a bigger part in a movie, and actually wrote that part and wrote that movie. So, I’m very thankful to him. I’m not the easiest actor to cast. I mean, it is easy to cast me as a pothead or a drug dealer or something — I’ve played a lot of parts like that on films and on TV, and happily, too. But this is definitely a little more sophisticated take on the sort of the burnout loser that I’ve essayed many times.”

Talking with Corrigan is an experience; he’s wildly verbose and prone to lengthy detours that eventually ramble back to the subject at hand. (Example: we start talking about Bujalski, which leads to talking about mumblecore, of which he says, “Whatever. It didn’t sound like they were mumbling to me. I could understand what they were saying. They say Andrew’s the ‘Godfather of Mumblecore. Marlon Brando is the Godfather of Mumblecore. They used to say the same thing about him!”) But he’s delightfully Zen on the subject of stepping into a larger, brighter spotlight in Results. “I have been kind of careless in the past,” he admits. “But that’s one of the hazards of being a character actor. You’ll end up having the same facial hair for like, five different movies. It’s hard to vary it up that much. After a while, you do end up just falling back on a certain stock routine. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. For me, I’ve found that the way to maintain my integrity from one project to the next is just to respect the material of each thing… if you can work on one scene, you can work on ten scenes. If you can put in one day of work, you can put in four weeks of work, just as long as you take it one scene at a time, one day at a time.”

Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce in Andrew Bujalski's "Results"

Corrigan laughs at Bujalski’s contention that he set out to make a film where he’d work with movie stars (“I’m kind of hesitant to go along with that description,” he chuckles), but if there were any justice in the movie business, Results would make Corrigan one. And it’s the kind of independent film that could conceivably find a broad audience, and not just via some sort of clever bait-and-switch; Bujalski says he approached the romantic comedy form with genuine affection. “It’s a completely disgraced genre and Hollywood doesn’t make them anymore,” he notes. “But what I think has always appealed to me about them is, as far as your major genres go, it’s the only one I think is really rooted in human foible.

“I would love for people who are fans of those movies to come and see this,” he continues. “You know you’re going to lose some of them, but I would hope that some of those folks will get out of this what they get out of those Hollywood movies.” That said, he’s likably uncertain about its reception, for either indie fans or mainstream moviegoers; he points to a review that claimed Results is weirder than Computer Chess. “And I thought, ‘Well, on the one hand that’s kind of great and I’m thrilled to hear that.’ And on the other hand, like, ‘There goes my Hollywood career…’”

Results is out today in limited release and on demand.