Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Premise: A wealthy couple (Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons) visits their vacation home and finds an intruder (Jason Segel) in the house. The burglar keeps the couple captive while awaiting a ransom.
What Works: Windfall is an intimate movie and the three central actors are well cast in their roles. Jesse Plemons plays a tech billionaire and Lily Collins is cast as his wife. The couple appears more or less normal at first but the husband’s arrogance and monstrosity and the wife’s domestic dissatisfaction gradually come to the foreground. Jason Segel especially impresses as the burglar. Segel is generally known for comedy but this is a strictly dramatic role and Segel’s performance is underlined by despair. Windfall is a story of class conflict and the story interestingly weaves themes of wealth and integrity into each character’s story in a way that draws the film together.
What Doesn’t: Too much of Windfall is unbelievable or comes across contrived. The film begins with Segel’s character at the couple’s home. He wasn’t planning to ambush them; the three characters converge on the property by chance but the burglar appears to have made preparations in anticipation of their arrival. Segel’s character doesn’t have a weapon at the start of the film and so there is no reason for the couple to listen to anything he says. This strange man shows up in their home, apparently unarmed, and the couple is unbelievably compliant. They put up no fight and Collins and Plemons play what ought to be a frightening situation as a mere annoyance. After its opening, Windfall does not escalate. The movie remains mostly flat and the middle of the picture comes across padded, even though the picture is only ninety-two minutes. Story developments are unlikely and forced. Segel’s character attempts to leave but he keeps getting drawn back into the house. Characters make obviously stupid decisions that artificially manufacture drama instead of building conflict organically. Because of that lack of credibility, the filmmakers struggle to maintain the story’s tension or momentum. The storytelling flaws come to a head in the ending. Without giving too much away, Windfall reaches a violent conclusion that is not earned. The story does not adequately build up to its climax and the characters act in ways that are inconsistent with everything we’ve seen to that point.
DVD extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: Windfall is an admirable attempt at telling an intimate story about class conflicts but some of the performances are miscalculated and the credibility is spoiled by unbelievable storytelling decisions.
Episode: #899 (May 1, 2022)