This satirical look at the love lives of personal trainers is enjoyably left of centre

Of all people to make a romcom about the love lives of personal trainers in Austin, Texas, few writer-directors would appear less likely than Andrew Bujalski. With four scatty and eccentric features under his belt, most recently Computer Chess, Bujalski is more or less the leading light of the US “mumblecore” movement – a maker of shoestring indies in no hurry to get anywhere fast.

Results, Bujalski’s first film with name actors, cost more than those other four combined. It has odd, twitchy rhythms for a romcom, which testify to the Bujalski touch: there are three main characters, involved in a love triangle of sorts, but deciding which pair to root for will keep you scratching your head. They’re all massively dysfunctional, and only one of them even knows it. This is Danny (Kevin Corrigan), an out-of-shape recent divorcé who has received a huge windfall from his late mother, and now has more money than he knows what to do with.

Fitness-guru-with-a-dream Trevor (Guy Pearce) happily assigns this ball of depression and low self-esteem to a trainer called Kat (Cobie Smulders), with whom Trevor has an on-off thing – as she puts it, this wouldn’t be the first time “a couple of fit, sweaty people who work together” wound up boffing.

The trouble, really, is that they’re both insane. Pearce, who used to be a competitive bodybuilder in his pre-Neighbours days, breezily establishes a character who has been spouting his earnest self-improvement mantras for so long he has nothing else to believe in – he’s all windmilling hand gestures and forced positivity. Kat, as played by the promising Smulders, calls him out on his nonsense when she feels like it, but she’s just as much of a headcase, if not more so: she runs absolutely everywhere at all times, and throws whopping great huffs when clients decide they’ve had enough.

Bujalski is so focused on satirising America’s healthy-living obsession that any functional romance feels pretty far off the table: some fairly bald third-act manoeuvres, worthy of a lesser George Clooney vehicle, are needed to wake these characters out of their delusional trance. In general, the film’s larger gestures, which feel sketchy and unconvincing by themselves, don’t work nearly as well as its throwaway details. The McMansion Danny has bought himself leaves him rattling around inside like a pinball – he has a new sofa covered in plastic, a bizarre collection of chairs, and walks around with his guitar plugged in.

In perhaps the most exquisitely funny-tragic section, Danny tries to romance Kat by hiring jazz balladeers to serenade them over a candlelit dinner. “I just ate a PowerBar,” she announces in lycra, expecting a workout. The ensemble keep playing, long after she’s bailed on the whole debacle.

Corrigan – one of those vital, Steve Buscemi-like character actors without whom American independent film would be truly bereft – is given something close to a victory lap in this part, and it’s hard not to applaud his every moment. He’s losing his hair, looks fit to burst from pizza consumption, and gets a Rocky montage. His quad exercises channel Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. “I’m going to stick with pudgy and mellow,” he resolves, after the fad has finally run its course. Like Bujalski trying to broaden his appeal with a mainstream romcom – and heroically failing – Corrigan’s beautiful loser might make more of an effort to shape up, but we’d love him less.