“Windfall” begins with a long sequence of Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother,” “Bad Teacher”) moving through a beautiful home off the beaten path in Ojai, California. He’s not the owner, he’s there to rob the place. As he walks through the orange grove on the property, he takes one off a branch and eats it casually. Inside, he works room to room, opening drawers, finding cash, jewelry, and a gun, but appears to be in no hurry because there’s no one home.
He makes it out safely, but then notices what appears to be a security camera looking down at him from a tree. Cursing his bad luck, he’s not sure whether to flee, finally deciding to go back into the house. That turns out to be a mistake, because before long, a man and woman drive up, and it’s clear this is their home — at least one of them.
The couple consists of arrogant tech billionaire Jesse Plemons (“Power Of The Dog,” “Fargo”) and his wife and business partner, Lily Collins (“Emily In Paris,” “Mank”). As they enter, Segel tries to slip out, but Collins spots him and the confrontation is on. By that I don’t mean a physical showdown, since Segel has their gun in his hand, but a psychological one. It seems that Segel knew whose house he was robbing and has some sort of beef with Plemons, but never divulges any information about himself.
In doing so, Segel holds back any comedic tendencies he has as an actor to play his character as a man with a chip on his shoulder and a desire to take Plemons and Collins down a notch. Meanwhile, Plemons stretches his character’s ego and hubris as far as he can, pushing back at Segel’s threats with a contained conceit we haven’t seen him play since “Breaking Bad.” Collins, matches them step for step, allowing us to see the cracks in what seemed like a happy twosome planning some together time at their estate.
Aside from the strong performances, the best thing about “Windfall” is its musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. They give the movie the feel of a 1940s film noir. Director Charlie McDowell (Collins’ husband) doesn’t have a lot of projects to his credit, but he made the 2014 movie “The One I Love,” which I enjoyed enough to put on my Movies You Might Not Know list. In “Windfall,” he knows when to keep the shots tight and claustrophobic and when to pull back and show the thief and hostages interacting in the indoor and outdoor vistas so beautifully constructed by production designer Andrew Clark.
“Windfall” was shot in March, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when its small cast and crew no doubt made production easier than other movies made at that time. It doesn’t have the look and feel of a theatrical production, but I could see it being performed as a nice, tight, 90-minute stage play.
Still, it works quite well as a movie, and kept me guessing right up to the end, so I give it an 8 out of 10. Streaming on Netflix.