Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Taylor Baker
“Windfall” is Charlie McDowell’s third feature after his indie breakout “The One I Love” produced by the Duplass Brothers about a couple on vacation questioning their marriage and its follow-up “Discovery” which also starred Jason Segel in a forgettable science fiction cult narrative. “Windfall” remixes elements from both McDowell’s previous works into a restrictive kidnapping plot where an unwilling kidnapper played by Jason Segel holds a tech billionaire (Jesse Plemmons) and his wife (Lily Collins) hostage when they arrive at a vacation property unexpectedly. McDowell leans on looks between the performers and well-framed scenes to build suspense and distrust in the audience from the very beginning. And casting an enormous sweetheart like Segel in the role of “bad guy” gives the film a softer feel than is conventional, it’s a choice I really like. Plemmons delivers unlikable billionaire well enough, but with such a strong body of work behind him comparatively, I can’t say this is one of his more memorable performances. It’s Collins’ turn as a disillusioned wife making a value judgment on how much fulfillment she can achieve through her marriage to Plemmons that becomes the most involving thread of the narrative largely due to her convincing portrayal.
Composers Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi rely on a deep stringy score that drums up the anticipation and focuses on the interpersonal imbalance these characters have moving between quaint politeness and reprehension. Seamed together by relative newcomer David Marks who also edited “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and “Night House”. The common beats of a home invasion thriller feel engaging though their conceits are decades old. “Windfall” is one of the few films with four credited screenwriters that feels cohesive and doesn’t lose its way. Part of that is undoubtedly Segel not only writing but performing but also McDowell having an eye for continuity not just in his characters but the level of excitement and anticipation that builds slowly and deliberately.