Single location movies are some of the hardest to pull off. In essence, this type of movie, more than any other, has its soul on the stage, in the theater, where the actors play off each other in meaningful ways with the audience there, able to watch everything. It is far from the subjective point of view that most movies offer. The actors, the dialogue, everything needs to be on point. If that isn’t the case, then the single location stops being interesting and becomes boring, a sign of a small budget or worse, small ideas.
Windfall thankfully doesn’t fall into any of those missteps, thanks to solid direction and an awesome trio of actors that help elevate a somehow familiar storyline.
Windfall is directed by Charlie McDowell and stars Jason Segel, Lily Collins, and Jesse Plemmons. The movie tells the story of a robber who breaks into a house, thinking it’s empty. But when the owners of the house suddenly appear and discover his presence, things turn for the worse as secrets start coming to the surface.
So, yeah, there are many single-location films out there, and for those who have managed to watch several of them, it is clear that this is a very inconsistent genre. The ideas, the acting, and the skill of the director matter so much that even if one of those elements feels off, it might hurt the film as a whole to a great degree. McDowell has experience with this type of film, though, and it shows.
McDowell previously worked with Segel in the underrated mystery film The Discovery, so it is nice to see the partnership moving forward once again. Segel has somehow been away from major movie releases for a while. However, the actor, who has made his name as a great comedian, is also a fantastic dramatic actor. And McDowell seems to be able to exploit that talent to its fullest potential.
It is great to have Segel back, but he is also accompanied by a couple of actors that have been killing it lately. For example, Lily Collins has the hit show Emily In Paris on Netflix, and she has been flexing her acting chops in other Netflix productions such as “To The Bone” and “Mank.” Here, Collins impresses once more.
The actress definitely proves that she’s more than just another pretty face and pulls off the most complex character in the piece. She conveys the fractured image of a woman who has been able to exchange security for happiness, and the consequences of that decision.
Alongside Segel and Collins, we find Jesse Plemmons, who is right now an Oscar nominated actor thanks to his work in another Netflix production, The Power of the Dog. It is just a matter of watching these two movies to see the amazing range that Plemmons is capable of.
Whereas his character in The Power of the Dog is passive and quiet. Here, in Windfall, Plemmons plays the perfect jerk. Another man who seems to have everything because he doesn’t really have a moral compass, so others’ suffering is just an afterthought to him.
These three actors offer great performances by themselves, but they manage to feed off each other’s energies and create something special. The acting is without a doubt the best feature of the film, and it should be applauded.
When it comes to the plot and the story, the film falters a bit, because it doesn’t really do anything new or fresh. From the moment the inciting incident occurs, it is clear what will happen in the next hour. Being predictable isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes being too predictable can deter from other aspects of the film. So all the great acting seems to be in favor of a story that we have seen many times before.
The story is well executed, but you probably won’t find yourself excited because many incredible things are happening on the screen. Actually, the movie feels a bit empty in this regard, and at least at the beginning, it feels like McDowell is stretching some moments only to reach that 90-minute running time.
Visually, McDowell makes great use of space and keeps things engaging, even if most of the story takes place inside one house. The house itself is gorgeous, offering several environments. This is something McDowell has done well before with the film “The One I Love” and he does it again here with great success. The soundtrack passes under the table, being one of those soundtracks made for TV that serve only to enhance certain moments, but they’re not melodies or pieces that stand up by themselves.
Windfall is a tiny thriller with big actors doing great acting. It might not be amazing or fresh, but it is well worth a watch if you’re looking for something that will never overstay its welcome.