After dabbling in episodic directing for the last few years, Charlie McDowell taps into the book of Hitchcock for his return to feature in Windfall from Netflix. McDowell collaborates on the film's script with Justin Lader, the legendary Andrew Kevin Walker, and one of the film's stars Jason Segel. A man (Jason Segel), whom the end credits refer to simply as Nobody, breaks into a tech billionaire's empty vacation home in the hopes of completing a successful robbery. However, things go sideways when the arrogant mogul (Jesse Plemons) and his wife (Lily Collins) arrive for a last-minute getaway.
When I saw the first trailer and post for Windfall, I instantly thought of Sidney Lumet's film adaptation of Deathtrap, Ira Levin's 1978 twist-filled play. Those who have seen Deathtrap and are film buffs like myself may know where my notion comes from. While there is a crucial similarity with three central characters in a secluded location where nothing is ever as it seems, Windfall is a film that stands on its own for the most part.
Our introduction to Nobody appears to play on Segel's strength as they portray him as a loner who was dealt a bad hand in life. Now that's not to condone his actions in the film, but the little things he does, such as peeling an orange or sipping orange juice, it's made clear this is a life he isn't privy to. Segel never comes off as menacing in the film, which is fine, as the script doesn't necessarily need to take that route with his character.
If you would've told me back in 2002 that the child actor bullying Bow Wow in Like Mike would become one of the best actors of his generation, I would've called your bluff. Jesse Plemons is that actor, and fresh off his Oscar nod for his work in The Power of the Dog, he continues to impress. Plemons brings the right amount of toxic masculinity to the role as his character attempts to eschew alpha, but in reality, he's a beta. Over the course of the film, I was hoping that Plemons character would get some support of comeuppance, as I had a general disdain for his nameless character, who we only refer to as CEO.
Lily Collins steps into the role of Wife, perhaps the most layered of the trio. The script hints at Collin's character knowing that her husband is a philanderer, yet she must stay in the marriage. I did enjoy the arc that the script gives "Wife," as when the film concludes, the subtle choices she makes earlier in the movie all make sense. Kudos to the filmmakers for avoiding turning the character into a sexpot, as the script could've quickly gone the route.
One of the writers, Andrew Kevin Walker (1995's Se7en), also finds time to make a subtle return to the world of seven deadly sins. I won't spoil how the sins angle comes into play, but the script highlights them in an intelligent manner that can make for great talking points in a post-film chat. Director Charlie McDowell and his writing team keep the film's running time to a concise 95 minutes or so. However, I want to point out to potential viewers; Windfall is a dialogue-driven slow burn that primarily focuses on its characters.
While I doubt I'll ever revisit Windfall, the film did keep me entertained for its run time, and I will recommend it for a one-time watch, particularly for fans of the cast.
Final Grade: B-
Windfall is streaming on NETFLIX now.