‘Windfall’: Woman sees her husband at his worst in tightly spun break-in drama
Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons and Jason Segel make an intriguing trio in the darkly funny Netflix film.
No offense to Emily and her extended stay in Paris, but one of the most satisfying aspects of the tightly spun and darkly funny chamber piece “Windfall” is seeing Lily Collins wearing the same, nondescript outfit throughout the proceedings and proving she doesn’t need 2,345 costume changes in this Hitchockian homage set entirely in and around the grounds of a sprawling, meticulously appointed property in Ojai, California. Collins is an actor and a damn fine one at that, and while her character at first appears to be the least intriguing and most innocuous person in the room, well, just you wait and see.
Directed by Charlie McDowell—son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, husband of Lily—“Windfall” is yet another movie filmed during the pandemic, but that has no real bearing on the material, as it transpires over the course of two days on the property of a tech billionaire (Jesse Plemons) and his wife (Collins), who have made a last-minute decision to ditch a high-profile conference and spend some time at their idyllic retreat in an effort to recharge their frayed marriage.
This comes as quite the surprise to an intruder (Jason Segel) who has stolen some cash and valuables and was about to leave their house when the husband and wife showed up. (We’re going to call them “Husband” and “Wife” and “Intruder” because we’re never told the names of these characters.)
Netflix presents a film directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker. Rated R (for language throughout and some violence). Running time: 91 minutes. Available now on Netflix.
From the opening graphic with its classic 1950s noir static shot, the sometimes appropriately overwrought music from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans and impeccable production design, “Windfall” quickly settles in as a sometimes tense, often comically absurd and always engrossing game of verbal chess, as the Intruder realizes he has been captured by a security camera and ups his game, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Husband so he can disappear and start a new life.
The Husband, who thinks he’s the smartest person in every room he’s ever entered, tries to manipulate the Intruder, while his Wife can scarcely contain her disdain for her Husband, who recently had an affair with a company employee and comes across as a petulant, self-obsessed jerk, at one point railing about how nobody has any idea how hard it is to be a white-guy billionaire in this era. (“I wake up every day with a target on my back!” Oh please just shut up, dude.)
“Everyone’s an idiot to you,” says the Intruder.
“No, not everyone,” replies the Husband. He’s not helping matters.
Segel is perfectly cast as the bumbling but determined Intruder, who may or may not have a secret agenda, while Plemons is a sweaty, blustering force as the Husband whose actions keep making things worse. In the center of it all is Collins as the Wife, who becomes ever more sympathetic to the Intruder as she begins to assess the realities of her life. We can see the last vestiges of love for her Husband drain from her face as she considers the past, present and future, and no matter how it all plays out with this Intruder, these three people will never be the same again.