You ever been trapped in an awkward situation you couldn’t get out of? Perhaps a family reunion dinner slowly becoming more heated or a company party where the boss tries to be your pal? Well imagine the worst possible scenario and dial that up to 11 and you get Charlie McDowell’s “Windfall”. A film that follows the story of a home burglar breaking into the empty vacation house of a wealthy billionaire.
There’s just one problem: said billionaire and his wife just so happens to be visiting the house on the day of the break-in. Soon things spiral out of control as the hostage situation is being handled by a burglar who both is comically incompetent and inexperienced. There’s more than meets the eye though.
Secrets will be uncovered. Mind games will be played as our trio of reluctant housemates become embroilled in a battle for their lives. Part of the fun of a good hostage crime thriller is watching the parties unravel before our very eyes? So, does “Windfall” deliver the claustrophobic on-edge experience we’re looking for? Let’s find out.
If you’re expecting “Panic Room” levels of actions and thrills, then you may want to skip this. The film’s strength lies solely on the mounting tension between our three characters. Their names are never stated throughout the film and Jesse Plemon’s character is simply known as the CEO, Lily Collins’ is Wife and Jason Segel’s bugglar is Nobody. Due to its barebones premise, there is literally no where for the film’s writing and performances to hide. It’s either a rivetting hit or a slow-burning snoozefest. The main draw of the film is its intriguing play on black humour and the tension of a hostage situation.
There are some genuinely funny moments in which Segel’s Nobody and the Plemmons’ CEO clash on-screen. One particular scene involving a chase through an orange field comes to mind. So coming in, we were half-expecting a sort of crime comedy. What’s interesting is the how McDowell lulls us into a sense of security before catching us off guard with some biting edge. Plemmon’s CEO is an insufferably arrogant man, and watching him dress down Segel in front our eyes can be terribly uncomfortable. Every second, you’re just waiting for the moment he’ll snap and pistol-whip Plemmons right over the mouth.
Beyond the tumultuous relationship between the CEO and the bugglar, the plot also focuses on Lily Collins’ wife and her place within this whole situation. Much like her marriage to the CEO, she feels like any power she exerts within the trichotomy is always in relation to a man. This frustration is wonderfully portrayed by Collins’ ability to convey bubbling frustration that eventually boils over to white-hot resentment and rage. Things get further complicated when the men in the room constantly make decisions that minimize her presence.
That being said, “Windfall” does suffer from a major issue: there’s not enough development for the robber. Sure we get some half-hearted rant about how he’s an angry, everyman who wants to get back at the rich elites destroying the world but honestly…we don’t buy it. Is that all we get? Furthermore, there’s only so many cracks in the hostage couple’s marriage we can witness on screen before the point of their dysfunctional relationship feels tiresome.
We’re not asking for a whole song and dance about Segel’s character and his tragic backstory. Just one or two lines to show that there’s something deeper brewing beneath the surface. There’s so much more that could have been said and done using the film’s hour and a half runtime. Instead, a lot of it is dedicated to winded silence accompanied with breathtaking scenes of nothing of note.
Speaking of Jason Segel, we’re happy to say that his role in “Windfall” is the most memorable part of the entire film. Those growing up with the wildly popular rom-com series “How I Met Your Mother” will no doubt recognize him as the large and lovable Marshall Eriksen. Throughout the show, he proved to be Ted’s emotional lifeline and best friend. Here, though, he’s nearly unrecognizable. He brings a grizzled, world-weary energy to his character that is occasionally broken up by bouts explosive frustration. It’s nice to see the actor giving crime thrillers a shot and we hope see him more.
Jesse Plemons continues to prove to be a tour de force in playing characters we so desperately want to punch in the face. Those who remember Todd from “Breaking Bad” will know what we’re talking about. Plemons does a brilliant job of playing an out-of-touch billionaire douchebag who thinks he can throw his weight around with his money. The scenes in which we see the CEO feign concern over his wife just makes us hate his character even more! Much like Segel’s character though, the script would have benefited from some brief moments of emotional vulnerability with his character. Just something to show us that he’s not just an utter cretin.
Interestingly enough, it’s Lily Collins’ character who gets the most expositional development throughout the film. Through subtle cues and passive-aggressive comments, you can just sense the contempt hidden beneath the surface. Where the film becomes cliche and generic is in its analysis on the lack of agency of the trophy-wives of the rich, powerful. Which is exactly what makes the conclusion to her arc in the film at the end feel deeply unearned and unsatisfying.
If there’s one thing Netflix’s “Windfall” manages to accomplish, it’s opening up actor Jason Segel’s career to wider possibilities. He delivers a grounded, if not gripping, performance as an inexperienced, frustrated bugglar looking to score big. Actor Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins complement Segel’s intensity with their roles as the dysfunctional hostage couple stuck in a difficult position. Perhaps with better writing and direction, “Windfall” would have proven more memorable. Unfortunately, it remains just short of greatness.
If you and the missus are looking for a dark comedy drama with a little bit criminal intrigue, then this might be your weekend jam! You can now catch it on Netflix today!
Netflix's "Windfall" Review
If there's one thing Netflix's "Windfall" manages to accomplish, it's opening up actor Jason Segel's career to wider possibilities. He delivers a grounded, if not gripping, performance as an inexperienced, frustrated bugglar looking to score big. Actor Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins complement Segel's intensity with their roles as the dysfunctional hostage couple stuck in a difficult position. Perhaps with better writing and direction, "Windfall" would have proven more memorable. Unfortunately, it remains just short of greatness.
Netflix's "Windfall" Review