Now streaming on Netflix, Windfall concerns a married couple that arrives at their vacation home to find a man robbing the place. Given that Windfall hails from director / co-writer Charlie McDowell — behind 2014’s great The One I Love and 2017’s forgettable The Discovery — it’s reasonable to expect a similar sci-fi mind-bender spun outward from a presumably deceptive minimal description. Given that Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) is a co-writer, it’s sensible to suppose that however close to other worlds Windfall might veer, it will dispense brutal truths about our own. Given that Jason Segel, Lily Collins and Oscar nominee Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog) portray the trio of main characters, it’s fair to foretell a performative fusion of fun quirks and foul dispositions.
Windfall whiffs on every last one of these notions, the least disappointing of which is that its narrative is rooted in an easily identifiable reality. And while there are secrets revealed about who’s doing what to whom and why, none is terribly surprising — unless the notion of capitalism’s underhanded underbelly is somehow new to you or that people can be pricks to the people they purport to care about the most. It’s the sort of film in which the players are christened with names like Nobody, CEO, Wife and Gardener. McDowell and company probably prefer that to mean these folks could be anybody. The depressing actuality of this verbose, tension-less thriller is that identifying them as such cements them purely as constructs for ill-developed ideas rather than intriguing characters.
Segel plays Nobody, whom we first see acting like he owns this palatial place before he starts robbing it. He grabs a Rolex and a few large bills before the CEO (Plemons) and his Wife (Collins) come barreling through the gates. The CEO and Wife are not supposed to be there, but he has blown off a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show for her … sorry, “for us,” as he’s corrected. Nobody is ready to leave them be and run off with what he has until he discovers a digital camera and realizes he needs a larger payout to go off the grid. After amusing negotiations, they settle on $500,000. But even for a billionaire tech-maven CEO, that kind of money takes some time to muster up. So the three must settle in until the money can arrive — plenty of time for some Stockholm Syndrome to set in as well as some interpersonal intrigue and … an outdoor viewing of ¡Three Amigos!.
That last bit is the sort of indulgent idiosyncrasy that pads Windfall even to a paltry 90 minutes. Early moments of promise involve the two men’s aversion to cardio in a physical situation, as well as the aforementioned negotiation of just how much money it takes to start a new life in today’s world. Segel and Collins play against their usual types as well as they can despite the thin script (on which Segel also gets a story credit). And it’s fun to see Plemons swing his pendulum back from pushover to provocateur, building up bear-poking jabs that stoke Segel’s perturbations and Collins’ doubts about the man alongside whom she’s decided to spend her life. Plemons’ embodiment of the CEO is not unlike his Todd from Breaking Bad had that malcontent found a calling to raid industry carcasses rather than create them, and Windfall similarly serves up several similar moments of decisive, swift violence. However, they’re few and far between. Amid its deathly dearth of engaging incidents, Windfall devolves into an extremely chatty calculation of corporate misery that you’ve seen scrawled on the whiteboard by smarter, shrewder filmmakers. Turns out there’s nothing deceptive about Windfall‘s minimal description after all.