Now here’s an interesting trio: Jason Segel, Lily Collins, and Jesse Plemons. The three come together in the Charlie McDowell directed “Windfall”, a new thriller that premiered this past weekend on Netflix. Written for the screen by Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker, “Windfall” is a typical COVID-19 era production – the tiny cast, the single location setting, etc. But like several of these films, “Windfall” starts strong but cant keep its momentum. It runs out of steam in the middle before picking it up in the final 15 minutes.
The movie opens with a man (Segel) lounging outside of a secluded vacation home that’s nestled among a quiet sun-soaked orange orchard. A long swimming pool stretches across the cozy back patio; beautiful mountains are painted across the horizon. He sits, enjoying the view and a big glass of orange juice. He strolls through the orchard; he relaxes by the pool. And then things get weird.
The more we watch this guy the clearer it becomes that he doesn’t belong in this house. He slings his glass across the back yard without a care. He pees in the shower. He wipes his finger prints off of the door knobs. As you might have guessed, he’s actually robbing the place. But just as he’s about to split, he’s caught by surprise when a vehicle pulls up outside. It’s the home’s owner – a billionaire tech company CEO (Plemons) and his wife (Collins). The burglar attempts to slip out unnoticed, but he’s spotted leading to the film’s central tension.
The remainder of the movie sticks with the three on the property as the borderline inept robber holds the well-to-do couple hostage while trying to figure a way out of his mess. Along the way we get to know these three dramatically different people to varying degrees (interestingly, none of them are ever given names). The robber remains mostly a mystery, and for better of worse his identity and his motivations remained veiled. The wife seems to love her pampered and privileged life. But over time, as layers of her character are peeled back, there’s another side to her that eventually comes to the surface.
That leaves the pompous, self-absorbed, and condescending CEO. He’s the kind of guy whose mug is plastered on the covers of magazines like “Wealth” and “Front & Center” which he mounts on the wall of his vacation home just so he never forgets his “importance”. He’s clearly the movie’s villain, and he’s clearly who McDowell wants us to hate. He also checks off many of the boxes for the kind of social commentary the movie tries to speak on.
So far so good, but after the introductions McDowell has a hard time keeping up the energy. The movie sort of sits in neutral, waiting for the inevitable ending which you can kinda see coming if you watch close enough. But it’s the slow build towards that ending that holds “Windfall” back. The performances are good as Segel, Collins, and Plemons make the most of what they’re given. But the commentary is uninspired and barely explored. And the vague hints of tension aren’t enough to make this throwback thriller as good as it could have been. “Windfall” is now streaming on Netflix.