Windfall, by Albert W. Vogt III

When you have a podcast like Down & Out Reviews, which you can find on Spotify, and your broadcast partner texts you and says that he watched Windfall over the weekend, you watch Windfall.  He is as big of a movie fan as myself, but he has recently not enjoyed going to movie theaters, so there was little chance of him seeing what I saw the past weekend as of this writing, The Outfit.  Judging by the paltry crowd in the cinema, he probably would have been fine.  The comparisons between the films are fairly apt.  They both deal with crime, albeit the criminals in The Outfit are of the more professional variety.  Each are focused on one location, a high-end suit making shop in The Outfit and a swanky yet cozy luxury cottage attached to a citrus grove in Windfall.  However, one of these is good, and the other is not.  Before reading the rest of this review, you might want to check out my review of The Outfit.  Or just plunge ahead here as it will probably be obvious by the end which one I preferred.

The opening credits of Windfall have an old school Hollywood feel to them, but this where any likeness to classic cinema ends.  From there, we focus on the robber (Jason Segel).  I should mention that no one has a name in this movie, which is handy because there are only four characters, and one of them is only around for about fifteen minutes.  We also do not know, at first, that he is there to steal from the rich man (Jesse Plemons) who owns the house.  Instead, the robber is sitting outside drinking orange juice, and generally lounging about before settling into the business of searching for valuables.  It is while sitting in the office that the rich man and his wife (Lily Collins) unexpectedly arrive.  The robber’s attempt to sneak out the front door fails when the wife spots him.  Discomfited, he forces the rich man to give him all the money in the house (about $5,000), locks them inside their outdoor sauna, and flees.  Despite assurances that there were no security cameras or weapons in the house (he found a pistol in a drawer previously), before he makes his getaway he spots a recording device on a tree.  Going back to the house, he tracks down the couple in the grove, threatening them with the gun.  When they get back to the house, the robber demands the footage, but the rich man claims there is no way of obtaining it.  Sensing that the robber is in over his head, the couple begin speculating as to what he needs to now do in order extricate himself from an increasingly complicated situation.  After some haggling, they settle on a sum of $500,000 for the rich man to give to the robber so that he can change his life somewhere else.  Unfortunately, when the rich man conferences with his assistant to arrange for the cash to be delivered, the assistant claims that it cannot be brought until late the following afternoon.  The three of them must wait.  In the course of their strained conversations, the rich man keeps trying to get the robber to reveal details about his life.  The robber remains unmoved, and the rich man assumes that the robber is a former employee of a company of his that he downsized, revenge being the motivation for breaking in and entering.  It also appears that the married couple are not having the best time of it.  The rich man is largely oblivious, suffering from the disorder common to many wealthy people of losing touch with reality.  The wife, a former assistant, seems unhappy because she is not living her own life, but instead goes along with whatever her husband wants.  Still, the robber reveals nothing about himself.  The next day, while still waiting for the money to appear, the estate’s gardener (Omar Leyva) arrives to begin his work.  When he parks, he notices that the rich man is home, and he knocks on the door to thank the rich man for allowing him to maintain the beautiful grounds.  Eventually, the gardener notices the robber there, though the couple attempt to explain him away as a visiting cousin.  The gardener seems to accept this, and takes them all out back to show off the planters he built and sketches of his future plans for the grounds.  The gardener then asks the rich man to sign the drawing.  With the robber looking on, the gardener unfolds the drawing and sees that it says “Call 911” on it.  Knowing that he cannot allow this to happen, the robber takes the gardener hostage.  Things go from bad to worse when a verbal altercation between the rich man and the robber leads to the robber shooting the gun in the air, which frightens the gardener.  The gardener gets up to run, but trips, goes face first into the glass door breaking it, which punctures his throat and kills him.  The robber is the only one that tries to help.  After this, the couple are tied up separately.  When the money is dropped off, the robber sends the wife out to get it.  There is a moment when it looks like she is about to escape on her own.  Instead, she brings the bag back inside.  The robber next tells off the rich man, grabs the duffel full of hundred dollar bills, and walks out the front door.  It is at this point that the wife had apparently had enough.  Grabbing a heavy sculpture, she murders the robber as he bends down to tie his shoe.  She then takes the gun, puts several bullets into her husband, and leaves.  The end.

There will be those of you who say that the ending of Windfall is a twist.  I suppose I would see it in the same way.  I expected the wife, who had a moment of bonding with the robber as she opened up overnight beside the fire about her troubles with her marriage, to go away with the robber.  This made sense given the clues that had come before, but it is also set up as part of a strategy discussed with her husband to get the robber to let his guard down.  I do not believe he knew she would say that their marriage is a sham, and whatever it is they were trying to accomplish, nothing comes of it.  In any case, because of what the robber and the wife shared, I expected them to leave the rich man behind and take the money together.  It is somewhat unclear to this reviewer what would have changed that, though since it seems I am left to guess, I will say it is because of how she did not help the gardener as he lay dying.  Yet, what could any of them done?  How often do people survive having their throat so deeply sliced open?  I like to think that if I were in that situation, I would have tried to help.  Call it my old lifeguard training giving me a reflex in such situations.  At the same time, sadly, the poor guy was a goner.  This all made for her actions at the end to be perplexing.

I would like to linger a bit more on the wife in Windfall.  In the course of her conversations with the robber, it is made clear that she is feeling trapped by her marriage.  She talks of the great work she once did for charitable organizations, and how she would love to return to that life.  She also describes her wedding day as a crossroads moment for her, how if she had chosen not to go through with it, she would have been stepping into the unknown, whereas marriage meant the next forty to fifty years of her life would be planned.  Kudos to her from this Catholic for looking at marriage as permanent instead of as something that can easily be done away with when the fancy strikes.  As I have discussed in other reviews, marriage is a vocation that should not be entered into lightly, especially not because it is what others expect of you as she indicates.  She also appears to not be cut out for marriage.  The rich man, in his boorish way, makes his assumptions known that he believes they will be soon having a baby.  She placates him, but some of the robber’s last words to the rich man are to tell the wealthy dude that his wife is taking birth control pills.  Of course, this saddened this Catholic since contraception is one of our big no-no’s.  This is also the point at which the movie officially breaks apart for me.  Even with the robber saying that he does not care about anything the wife has to say at the end, I still expected her to leave with him.  There is no reason for her to kill him, or her husband.  She is not living the life God (though she unlikely believes in this Him) is calling her to, but that does not mean she needs to commit murder to change her life.  Convents are not without their share of women who were once married, realized they in the wrong vocation, and switched without offing their spouse.  In any case, this underscores how important is discerning these steps before taking them, not to mention the concomitant need for prayer.

If you want to be bored for an hour and a half, then Windfall is the film for you.  If you want to basically do the same thing, but see a better movie with an even better message, watch The Outfit.  Ultimately, I need characters about which I care, and Windfall did none of that for me.  The closest is the gardener, but then he died.  Hence, there is little to recommend this movie.

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