• Nate Adams

'Windfall' review: Hitchcockian inspired social satire holds steady


Courtesy of Netflix

 

Another entry in the long line of small ensemble chamber pieces made during the height of the pandemic, Charlie McDowell’s Hitchcockian-inspired satire “Windfall” skates on the charms of Jesse Plemons, Lily Collins and Jason Segel playing a holed-up trio caught in a peculiar situation. Sure, it’s easy to make a film with only three people in one location, but “Windfall” holds its own despite a clunky final act which swerves into unexpected territory when a character arc doesn’t seem fulfilled, realized, or plausible.


Still, when you have Plemons, now a household name because of scene-stealing performances in “The Power of the Dog” and “Game Night” (next, he’ll be seen in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”), perfectly delivering douchy tech-speak alongside the quietly reserved Collins who’s eyes could slit throats, “Windfall” makes for a breezy exploitation on the social divide between the wealthy elite and the nobodies. In this case, that’s Plemons Jeff Bezos inspired tech-guru which the movie doesn’t give a name but a title: CEO. What he does can only be pieced together through various sound bites (“Aren’t you worth like seven billion dollars?”) and magazine covers hanging in his office. Whatever the career profession, he makes a lot of mola and can snap his fingers and have $500,000 cash delivered at the gate to his lavish mansion in orange grove, California.


Understanding the dynamics of the characters helps shape the mold for what ensues as Plemons, and Collins might appear as a happy-go-lucky married couple yearning for a serene weekend getaway (she runs the charitable foundation side of his tech business) but the reality is far from peachy. So when Segal’s unnamed assailant breaks into their vacation home, under the assumption they wouldn’t be home, the tension isn’t so much from the robbery in progress, but the couple’s fractured relationship. In this case, the robber is more than just a third wheel, he becomes a mediator. From here, McDowell tries maneuvering around the schematics of the standard home-invasion caper and mostly succeeds by upending the layout of the classic three-act structure.


Segel’s character, appropriately named “Nobody,” never seems intimidating enough to make a convincing pass as a burglar, creating a strange disconnect as he takes CEO and Wife hostage (Many times I sat wondering why they don’t smack him over the head and make a run for it) while awaiting for a cash ransom. What are his motives? Tough to say, but one could assume he was wronged by the CEO in a different life. However, his eat-the-rich attitude isn’t hard to engage with and there’s moments where you find yourself rooting for the cause. Those perceptions notwithstanding, “Windfall” loses mojo when it pivots into an entirely different genre during the closing minutes, and though it doesn’t wrap a tidy bow on everything that came before, “Windfall,” metaphorically at least, sticks the landing.


Grade: B


WINDFALL is now streaming on Netflix.