Director: Charlie McDowell
Writers: Justin Lader & Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast: Jason Segel, Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons, and Omar Leyva
Premise: 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.
Charlie McDowell’s Windfall leans heavily into the Hitchcockian tone for which it strives. From a retro styled credit sequence that feels evocative of 50s and 60s thrillers, to a score that plays a lot like the Bernard Herrmann pieces of yore, Windfall is a movie that wants you to feel its thriller nostalgia. Even the premise, a contained story of a thief forced to wait out his impending windfall of cash with the people whom he’s robbing in the middle of nowhere, feels like a riff on Hitchcock’s masterclass murder mystery, Rope. Though those nostalgia stingers do work on occasion, the sum of Windfall‘s parts don’t add up to much outside of a passingly effective thriller.

Jason Segel’s unnamed thief (in the credits he’s referred to as Nobody) has his principles and makes his arguments against the exorbitantly wealthy couple (Lily Collins as Wife, and Jesse Plemons as CEO) known frequently and loudly. McDowell defiantly brings the social commentary and “eat the rich” ethos of Windfall from subtext into the text of the film and eschews any subtlety. This isn’t as bad as it sounds though, as it allows the drama and tension of the film ample breathing room and space to develop the characters.
The plot kicks off with Nobody’s crime of breaking into the seasonal home of a tech billionaire spoiled by the couple’s sudden arrival at the property. When they discover Nobody, the three explore their options. Nobody takes them captive while the CEO works to diffuse the situation by offering money to satiate Nobody. The motivations and demeanor of each character lends Windfall a certain stylistic bend that supports the themes of the film. The CEO’s calm reaction to the home invasion and ensuing captivity hinges on his ability and willingness to pay Nobody to go away.
The film drifts into some light comedy as the characters discuss and debate how much money Nobody will need to start a new life. We don’t know the extent of the CEO’s wealth, but we know money is no object. Which is what gives Jesse Plemons the room to play the CEO in a nearly carefree manner. He comes from a place of privilege that surely isn’t without its difficulties. But paying off a home invasion trespasser with a portion of his wealth that’s maybe the equivalent of pocket change for most just doesn’t rate that highly for the CEO. The safety and well-being of others also doesn’t rate highly for him when using them could mean getting out of the situation at hand.
Lily Collins is given perhaps the meatiest role in the film as the CEO’s Wife. Her interactions with Nobody give way to an unexpected connection between the two. This is born mostly out of stockholm syndrome. However, the key question at the heart of Windfall is from who is the CEO’s Wife experiencing stockholm syndrome? Are she and her husband being held captive by Nobody? Or is the CEO her captor in their marriage?
There’s a slight crisis of identity to the tone and pacing of Windfall, overall. The weighty themes and serious nature of the plot sometimes clash with the almost comic tone of some of the situations that arise. When more serious and immediate developments occur, there’s a bit of whiplash for the audience as we’ve moved into a more conventional thriller from the semi-absurd plot in which Windfall feels the most at home.
The film’s ending attempts to surprise and leave with a message that plays into the themes of the story well enough. There’s not enough build-up toward the film’s climactic final moments. So when the plot is resolved and the film is heading into its closing credits, the audience is left potentially scratching their heads trying to figure out the motivations of certain characters. It leaves a slightly bad taste in your mouth. Despite some questionable choices, there is still more good than bad to be found in Windfall.
Windfall is currently streaming on Netflix.

About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive ViewerAnthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.