Its basic conceit is intriguing but Windfall doesn’t quite make the most of its potentially interesting premise.
Staring: Jason Segel, Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons, and Omar Leyva
Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Tagline: Every kidnap is a compromise.
The constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic inspired filmmakers to put on their thinking caps and come up with projects – from Locked Down to Malcolm and Marie – that either worked around or incorporated the resulting limitations into their work.
The new Netflix thriller Windfall has all the markings of a pandemic production.
Everything about the film feels minimalistic.
Only four characters appear onscreen in the entirety of this one and a half hour drama. Three of them are the primary players: a robber (portrayed by Jason Segel) who is attempting to burgle a rich couple’s vacation home, and the aforementioned couple (portrayed by Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins, the latter of whom is married to the film’s director Charlie McDowell) who walk in on the attempted burglary. The locations are limited to the house and the expansive gardens around it. The setting is confined, intimate. It all feels quite intriguing.
But a project like this requires the kind of sharpness that Windfall unfortunately does not possess. As the robbery turns into a kidnapping, the film doesn’t really deliver the tension or suspense or even believability that would have made the proceedings riveting. Instead, it ends up feelings like a short episode has been unnecessarily stretched to feature length.
The performances are serviceable and the characters are interesting, but the film doesn’t let us get to know the characters well enough to be invested in their tales or give us a reason to care about their eventual fates.
Its attempt to dissect wealth and class conflict is too surface to be revelatory in any way, and its eventual twist is more jarring than effective.
All in all, Windfall has an interesting concept and builds an intriguing atmosphere but then stumbles as it tries to stretch its brief premise before landing on an ending that doesn’t quite work. There are several elements – the basic conceit, the overall ambience – that are well-crafted, but they are ultimately let down by lack of effective character development and unconvincing narrative turns. With a more polished script and a somewhat different approach to the storyline, the film could have potentially been a lot more impressive.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection