Windfall doesn’t hang about. After a lovely, Art Deco-styled opening-credits sequence, complete with a Hitchcockian score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, consciously telegraphing the tradition being doffed at here, we get right into the action. In the initial seconds of the film, a man (like all four characters in this film, never named) played by Jason Segel breaks into a swanky second home. With a scruffy beard and a wild look in his eyes, he does not look like a master criminal with a master plan. There’s none of the gentle, kind warmth you might have seen in his earlier comedies or sitcoms. Segel establishes a panicky, chaotic energy that the film very nearly manages to sustain.
Even best-laid plans go awry, and the plan is evidently not well-thought-out, but our hero perseveres, even when the owners of the house he breaks into turn up. There’s some enjoyable tension as it becomes clear everyone is improvising their way through proceedings; the script (Segel is credited as a co-writer) takes pains to make the motivations and movements feel believable.
After a sweaty first act, the dramatic stakes lose some of their lustre as the film becomes more talky.
As the couple subject to a break-in, Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins do a lot with what could easily be ‘rich arsehole’ stereotypes. He plays an Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos type — an arch-capitalistic billionaire who complains about “loafers and freeloaders” and maintains a victim complex about being a wealthy white dude. She is more philanthropically minded, though still coming from a clear place of privilege (it’s a role that plays nicely on Collins’ Emily In Paris legacy), shrugging off numbers like $100,000. It brushes against some social commentary about the haves and have-nots, but this is too much of a minimalist genre exercise to make any grandstanding point.
This is essentially a three-hander, in one location, and director Charlie McDowell doesn’t always successfully escape the staginess of that set-up. After a sweaty first act, the dramatic stakes lose some of their lustre as the film becomes more talky. It comes back to life when fuses start to shorten, and blood starts to get spilled — a couple of rug pulls in the final minutes have a bit of oomph to them. At a lean 92 minutes, Windfall doesn’t overstay its welcome, doesn’t ask too much of the viewer, and won’t linger too long in the memory— and sometimes, that’s fine.