Directed by Charlie McDowell.
Starring Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons, Jason Segel, and Omar Leyva.
A man breaks into a tech billionaire’s empty vacation home, but things go sideways when the arrogant mogul and his wife arrive for a last-minute getaway.
“Why do we keep pretending this guy is a threat,” asks the unnamed and unlikable hostage tech billionaire played by the always welcome and very versatile Jesse Plemons. It’s a sentiment that feels like it should be brought up about 30 minutes earlier in Windfall rather than right before a large sum of money is handed over to Jason Segal’s similarly nameless thief and vacation home infiltrator. This power balance game seems to be the point for director Charlie McDowell (who also crafted the story alongside Jason Segel and screenwriters Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker). However, it doesn’t make the unfolding story less inconsistent and confounding.
Regardless, the unexpected arrival of this business mogul and his wife (Lily Collins), sincerely passionate regarding charity work, throws a wrench into whatever the perpetrator had planned. By the looks of it, he’s just enjoying the luxurious residence before looting whatever valuables he comes across during a sweeping raid exploring the nooks and crannies of every desk and drawer. While hiding from the married couple, it’s also made intriguingly clear that the rich husband is, for lack of a better term, a raging self-centered asshole that demeans everyone around him, including his wife.
With that in mind, Windfall positions itself as a unique home invasion thriller where we kind of don’t care if this guy has some of his fortunes drained. If anything, it’s something to root for. Especially considering as the movie goes on, the man continues to assert control over his wife, such as dictating preparations of having a baby, which, in turn, would have her role within her charitable organizations minimalized. It also helps that Jesse Plemons is given plenty of room to be a loudmouth obnoxious jerk, whether through sexism or ridiculing the have-nots, which provides a sense of energy that the narrative desperately needs to mitigate its lack of suspense.
Once the initial attempts at escaping the presence of this gun-carrying intruder wear off, Windfall doesn’t have anywhere interesting to go. Aside from peeling back layers of evil on this billionaire and expressing how fraught this marriage is (while alluding to an infidelity scandal as he scrambles to have a briefcase of money delivered to the home), there’s not much going on here.
By design, Jason Segel is meant to be conflicted and nonintimidating, so it boils down to 20-something hours (the movie itself is 90 minutes) of frustratingly watching characters do nothing about their situation when they have plenty of opportunities to make a move. There is a reason why the story is like this, as part of the theme involves those who accept their fate and those who grab life by the horns and are likely to do so. Lily Collins easily has the most sympathetic role here and is the only paragon character, although the script doesn’t do much with that.
Windfall feels like a story designed around its ending only for the filmmakers to work backward, filling in all the gaps. It has some terrific screen presence from everyone involved trying to bring the scenario to life within a beautiful setting of a fancy house and garden but is also too one-note and stagnant to maintain investment beyond wondering how it’s going to end. And even that eventually becomes predictable. When the characters are constantly questioning gaps in logic, something is wrong.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com