Movie Review: ‘Windfall’ Isn’t Subtle, But Hits an Interesting Climax

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago, there has been no shortage of movies or TV shows that capture the mood of our particular global moment. Something like “Station Eleven,” a miniseries about a fictional deadly flu pandemic, sometimes hits almost too close to home, debuting eerily similar to where we are today and building with the power to evoke raw catharsis. A show like “Severance” feels like a product of the pandemic in a different way, ruminating on our relationship to work/life balance at a time when those lines are blurred for so many of us still working from home. . A film like “Malcolm & Marie” doesn’t deal directly with the pandemic, but the story of its production – filmed with a small cast and crew in a remote location due to COVID-19 – is as much a part of its narrative as anything else that happens on the screen.

“Windfall” — a new Netflix movie from director Charlie McDowell — is another pandemic-era creation. Shot entirely in a house with a small cast and crew, the film isn’t about the pandemic at all, but the effects of COVID-19 are felt no less. “Windfall” looks at societal issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic, highlighting income inequality and the pitfalls of white feminism in particular. The question of whether the script is sophisticated enough to handle these subjects gracefully arises frequently – the characters often have conversations where the dialogue is about as subtle as a brick, and the film oscillates from thriller to dark comedy without too much connective tissue – but strong performances from the three central actors elevate the storyline, which eventually comes to a more interesting climax than expected.

“Windfall” opens onto a sun-drenched verandah – beautiful, but almost barren, especially when paired with an eerie score marked by chords of strident dissonance. We meet a man (Jason Segel), credited as Nobody. At first glance, it looks like it belongs here, relaxing by the pool and sipping a glass of orange juice. But his clothes – dirty jacket, dirty jeans, perpetually untied boots – are out of place with the pristine nature of the setting, and his actions – peeing in the shower, throwing his empty glass into the orange groves below – quickly betray that he is somewhere where he is. not meant to be.

Segel begins rummaging through the house and collecting all the money and jewelry he can find. But when the owners of the house – credited as CEO and wife, played by Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins – arrive unannounced, Segel’s efforts come to a screeching halt. As Segel’s motives for targeting this particular house begin to unfold, the three must come to an agreement on how best to resolve their current situation.

In a world where a global pandemic has made the differences between the haves and have-nots all the more apparent – a world where Jeff Bezos sits comfortably on a multi-billion dollar nest egg while rumors spread that workers in the ‘Amazon piss in bottles and the wound the tariff in Amazon warehouses is higher than twice as high like others – the story at the heart of “Windfall” has become too familiar. Plemons’ CEO character serves as a stand-in for the Jeff Bezos of the world while Segel’s Nobody is the working-class guy who has inadvertently become collateral damage to so-called progress. “Windfall” isn’t particularly subtle in its allegory, and leaning too far into that allegory towards the end of the film might be its biggest pitfall. The script manages to keep the audience guessing at why Nobody robbed the CEO until the very end, but this reveal is lackluster and underwhelming, choosing to pursue metaphor instead of grounding allegory in emotion or motive. real human.

Plemons steals the show as the narcissistic CEO and is the actor best able to strike the right balance between the comedic and more Hitchcockian elements of the film. At first, he has a sort of selfless ease about him, his eyes following his captor with something akin to glee, as if he finds the whole interaction amusing. He quotes Dean Martin to his captor like he doesn’t care about the world, and half the time doesn’t even bother to sit up straight. But all that freshness is part of a facade that begins to crumble as his captivity buzzes, the cracks in personality shown through a subtly tapping knee or slight tightness around the jaw. Plemons has the majority of the screenplay’s most naive lines of dialogue – he literally says, “Try to be a rich white man these days” – but his naturalistic ability to live so deeply in the character’s physical presence gives lines like this have more weight and dark humor than they otherwise would have had.

Segel has a slightly more difficult task, having to work against his natural charisma to find the clumsy burglar within. His 6’4″ frame easily conveys the hulking nature of the character, but Segel is an actor who tends to be comfortable in his own skin, so he has to struggle a bit to find the edgy “Nobody” physique. He telegraphs a bit too much at times, relying on jerky, physical movements to get the character across, but as the film progresses and Plemons’ character begins to go off the rails, Segel settles in, seemingly more comfortable with the character when he has some semblance of power over the powerful.

Plemons and Segel may have the most to do, but Collins has the most to work with. As a wife, she’s a prototypical “boss girl,” and the best parts of Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker’s script deal with that character’s breakdown. The wife runs her husband’s foundation, she’s in charge of building schools and hospitals, and she’s worked at a plethora of nonprofits in the past – “It’s not that I have to justify my resume to you,” she tells Nobody when he asks her. When the CEO asks him to get into Nobody’s good graces to get out of his captive situation, it seems like it might work. Collins plays the character as clearly dismissive of her husband, so the trickery comes from a place of honesty. In one scene, she gives a speech to Nobody about feeling trapped in a luxurious life she wasn’t sure she wanted. The speech sounds heartfelt, Collins unguarded at the time and unaware of how ridiculous it might seem to the man sitting across from her.

Firm in her belief that she is a good person, despite the actions of the man she chose to marry and work with, the woman begins to side with Nobody, often clashing with the CEO. The tense moments between the woman’s sheer belief in her goodness and the film’s murkier take on the subject are where “Windfall” excels. The script is most interesting when it questions the wife’s role in her husband’s relationships and how she perceives his “situation” in relation to others’ difficulties, reaching a climax as unsubtle as the rest of the film, but a pretty plot perfect allegory of what a wealthy white woman will do in the name of victimhood.