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Directed by Charlie McDowell
Written by Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker
Starring Jason Segel, Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons
Classification R; 92 minutes
Streaming on Netflix starting March 18
If, this weekend, you have the desire to watch three morally ambiguous characters flirt with matters of life and death in the space of a single room, then go see the new Mark Rylance thriller The Outfit. If, after watching that one-location movie, you still have a craving for a stagy experience about unsavoury types, then, I dunno, take turns reading David Mamet’s American Buffalo with your partner (your eldest child can play Bobby, or perhaps Zoom in a friend or two). Whatever you do, though, do not watch Netflix’s Windfall.
A “clever” film that doesn’t do anything clever at all beyond its Hitchcockian opening credits, Windfall is a disposable and eye-rolling endeavour that will have you re-evaluating your household streaming budget.
Taking place entirely at the sun-drenched vacation home of a billionaire tech tycoon, Windfall struggles to find dramatic tension between three archetypes who are so bereft of character that they come neatly equipped with no character names at all: There is the Chief Executive (Jesse Plemons), the Wife (Lily Collins), and Nobody (Jason Segel). When the film opens, Nobody is robbing the estate and is seconds away from safely leaving before the homeowners arrive for a last-minute weekend away. What ensues is a three-way standoff that grasps for ethical and moral dilemmas, coming up with nothing but sweaty palms.
What’s worse: When the film finally comes close to reckoning with something, anything, of interest – how the privilege of the few can be ruinous for the many; not an especially novel concept in the first place, I realize – the moment is squandered by a “shocking” development that is so gross, so thoughtless, that it makes the whole project stink of faux-sincerity. I’d spoil it for you, but maybe you should watch the scene yourself to witness exactly what happens when bad ideas turn into very bad movies.
Ultimately, the most compelling mystery of Windfall is why three talented performers signed up for this hollow exercise in the first place. OK, perhaps it’s not much of a mystery at all. Segel has a “story by” credit here and has previously worked with director Charlie McDowell on the similarly high-concept/low-execution sci-fi indie The Discovery. Collins is the easiest: she’s married to McDowell. But Plemons? His participation is a true enigma – but, please, don’t spend a second more of your time trying to solve it. Oh, wait, I just did! McDowell directed the pilot of On Becoming a God in Central Florida … which starred Plemons’s wife, Kirsten Dunst. Good work everyone, let’s all take the weekend off.
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