Written by: Justin Lader & Andrew Kevin Walker
Starring: Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons, Jason Segel, Omar Leyva
Decisions by executives under the guise of cost-cutting have a grave impact on the individuals they oversee even if they feel nothing personal went into the decision. In reality, that may be true but it surely personally affects those who are deemed unimportant by those with decision-making power. This ultimately sets things off in Windfall in a battle of power dynamics that brings together three individuals for a collision.
Breaking into an expensive vacation home, a burglar (Jason Segel) gets caught as the owners, a CEO (Jesse Plemons), and his wife (Lily Collins) enter the home. Holding them hostage until they can deliver some cash, the three of them are in the house together as tempers lay on the verge of sparking consistently.
The burglar featured in this film certainly does not do it for a living given the manner he engaged in the activity. He entered the space with no mask on, which is robber 101 for goodness sake. In all reality, it came with the expectation of coming in and out of the house without much interruption, but the arrival of the couple who own the house certainly complicates things and causes all of the drama occurring in this feature. Working through the story with anonymous characters without even a name to attach to them from the screenplay, this film works as a chess game moving pieces around in communicating the messages this narrative seeks to evoke.
With the drama of a gun between the burglars and the homeowners, the power dynamics on display craft much of what this film wants to comment on when you see an arrogant rich man with a wife who undoubtedly proves to be unhappy along with a clearly desperate man who’s in need of some cash. While they wait for a cash shipment to arrive to pay off the burglar from killing them this film mostly gravitates around them sitting around and having conversations as they feel each other and what can be deciphered from specific verbiage. It all feels confined while also taking place in such a grand estate. Much of that tension comes from the fact a man is wielding a gun but distinct stuffiness constantly sits in each scene. The tension then gets cut through when the CEO begins to pipe up with his opinion on far too many occasions.
Jesse Plemons has continually proven to be a fantastic actor in everything he takes on and he can play good or bad in equal measure. Now, it may be harsh to say a man who’s being held hostage by a burglar in his own home could be described as a bad guy but he merely finds himself in a bad situation. Plemons does so well in showing what makes this man such a horrible person in the way he looks down on people and the venom in the way he talks. When the revelations made down the line become apparent it makes even more sense what makes him such an easily hateable individual.
When this feature reaches its apex it comes from the building of the tension between the three individuals. Any sudden movement or a specific word taken the wrong way can turn events into something tragic when all that could happen is a simple exchange of money for freedom. However, this narrative is a feature film so something wild needs to happen, especially when a gun is involved. It’s the classic Chekhov’s gun idea and I can guarantee the gun gets at least fired once but you’ll be surprised by what way it does and the impact it has on the plot. Where the film begins to falter comes when it heads towards its conclusion and how it makes quite a mess of the story and it transpires in a head-scratching way. It certainly makes a statement of sorts but not one necessarily grounded in anything remotely interesting. A shame, really considering the build-up created so much intrigue but they could not necessarily stick the landing.
Fairly decent in moments and a mostly okay film, Windfall does a half-job in how it establishes the nameless characters and their motivations throughout the story, but it fails to put together a satisfying conclusion. Instead, it raises more questions than it answers, and not in a good way. Good in parts but with a finale that leaves you scratching your head as to where that came from.