Windfall (2022)
April 16, 2022 8:47 PM - Subscribe

A man breaks into a tech billionaire's empty vacation home, but things go sideways when the arrogant mogul and his wife arrive for a last-minute getaway.

A Hitchcockian thriller following a young couple (Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons) who arrive at their vacation home only to find it’s being robbed.

Linda Holmes: What follows is unsettling and suspenseful and very, very tense. It's also not infrequently comic; Nobody is not a brilliant criminal, and there are logistics to holding people hostage that he did not anticipate when he expected to rob an unoccupied house. Often, he and CEO both seem ridiculous, just a pair of doofuses of different kinds. Sometimes the comedy and the suspense collide and either mix or trade off, as they do in CEO's lavish orange grove. The score, from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, remains pleasingly, nervously old-fashioned.

. . .

There's a limited set of answers (in a movie that plays fair) to the question of whether this will end well or badly for (1) Nobody (2) CEO and (3) Wife. But that doesn't take anything away from what's ultimately a well-done, stripped-down thriller. Plemons has fun with the idea of the world-buying billionaire whose unshakable arrogance, even while he's a hostage, is both a weapon and a flaw. Collins plays Wife as a woman who has struggled to make her peace with being extraordinarily wealthy in return for being married to this man — a struggle with which Nobody is unsympathetic. And the bearded, sweaty Segel, who has a long history of playing lovable, lanky sad sacks, brings menace to Nobody, but balances it with a measure of false bravado that suggests he doesn't really intend anything bad to happen.

It's a well-structured tale that has the elements a movie like this needs most: details that will pay off later, truths you only spot on second viewing, and missteps by characters that suddenly change personal dynamics. It is, in a word, satisfying.

You'll often hear the argument that nobody makes grown-up films anymore, or films that don't rely on special effects, or movies that are just people talking — and fortunately, it's just not the case. This is a clever, tight (at 90 minutes), well-edited, well-acted and well-written movie that isn't done any disservice by being viewed at home as a Netflix offering. It's a fun movie that lives up to that retro opening.

Susannah Gruder: Husband gradually starts to toy with the intruder — who becomes more and more likable in comparison, both to Collins and to us — asking him which company he was let go from, and berating people these days for being “lazy fucking loafers and freeloaders” (echoing Kim Kardashian’s recent tone-deaf comment that “Nobody wants to work these days.”). As each character begins to reveal their true colors, our feelings about who’s the hero and who’s the villain are meant to become muddled. But without a clear sense of tone, we search for more meaning than the film is capable of giving, always waiting for the ironic or surreal twist that never comes. We’re mercifully granted an ounce of excitement at the film’s end, though it’s as confused about its own provocations as the opening sequence.

Inserting an outsider into a bourgeois space can be an incredible fruitful set-up for a film — think “Parasite,” “Teorema,” or “The Plumber,” which all witness the highly organized worlds of the upper classes descend into chaos once someone beyond their sphere intrudes. But “Windfall” doesn’t explore these ideas enough, and is instead pulled in too many different directions to land on any sense of profundity. It should be commended, however, for making its flawless setting as claustrophobic for us as it is for the three characters. By the end, we’re so suffocated with gorgeous countertops, well-appointed guest casitas, Rolex watches, and zen gardens that we’re all too happy to finally escape.

Danielle Ryan: Tense situations tend to bring out the worst in people, and few situations are as potentially charged as a home invasion and hostage situation. In "Windfall," the latest from "The One I Love" director Charlie McDowell, three unnamed protagonists are put to the test when a random Nobody (Jason Segel) breaks into the vacation home of a filthy rich CEO (Jesse Plemons) for a little R&R when the CEO and his wife (Lily Collins) arrive unexpectedly. The movie was conceptualized and produced during the early parts of the pandemic, when everyone felt trapped in their homes and unsure of what was going to happen next, and those fears translate well to this claustrophobic film. "Windfall" is a brilliantly-executed minimalist thriller that delivers as much as its audience is willing to put in. It's lean and it's very mean, but "Windfall" is also the kind of tightly-knit character-driven thriller that stays with you long after the credits roll.

. . .

As great as both Segel and Plemons are, the movie wouldn't work without Collins and her character, a put-upon wife who is trapped in a marriage with a megalomaniac. The marriage woes are evident from the very first scene, in which the CEO is furious at his assistant for not filling the home with vases of fresh-cut flowers. His wife tries to get him to focus on her, and on having a nice time together, but he's obsessed with the flowers and his version of perfection and throws a bit of a tantrum instead. Collins is perfect opposite him as a character who is cool and collected without being cold, rounding out the trio of talented thespians.

"Windfall" never leaves the estate and follows these characters exclusively, keeping the action tightly centered and needle-sharp. A plan is arranged for Nobody to get his money and escape only 15 minutes or so into the movie, but that old adage about best-laid plans comes into play as everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. What begins as a pitch-black comedy soon develops into a taut thriller where no one is guaranteed to survive, and the climax has enough tension to feel like a cinematic panic attack.

posted by Carillon (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed this quite a bit. I especially liked all the throwbacks to 50s noir.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:52 PM on April 16, 2022

It was shocking disconcerting to me that there wasn't a pre-credit scene at all. It's very much a classical approach but I guess I'm so used to the reverse in modern movies it felt weird! Which was the right tone/feeling for this movie I think. I liked it a fair bit, definitely felt bad for the gardener who's such a great character. I was surprised to read the reviews that said there wasn't a clear sense of tone or character. It very much felt to me a slipping of masks as the pressure and intensity wore on people, I got a good sense of who people were and why they were making decisions.
posted by Carillon at 11:43 PM on April 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

We could call this movie "The Gardener, the Thief, the Wife & Her Lover". And I am.

I thought the Wife's character and motivations were pretty clear. She married the doofus because he was probably more charming before, he seemed a good catch, and she couldn't imagine much better. Having been married to the guy, the luster has completely worn off and then, in this situation, she sees him clearly as someone she could never trust and she wants out (with all the money — remember there's a prenup). So, fuck that guy.

I thought the Thief's end was satisfying because although he was portrayed somewhat sympathetically, the truth is he terrorized them for a weekend. Fuck that guy, too.

Poor gardener. His pride in his workmanship and ambition made his fate all the more upsetting. I liked that guy.

I thought all the performances were great. This was a bit different for Plemons, villainous but a very different kind of villain. Lily Collins is Phil Collins's daughter.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:20 AM on April 17, 2022

This was a fun little movie; nothing groundbreaking but well acted and with a lot of fun dialog. I thought Segal was especially good in this and I liked how the director used his physical size to make him seem threatening without being overtly aggressive.

I'm not sure I buy the ending though; it felt like maybe there should have been a scene or two more building up the animosity between Plemons and Collins to make it seem a little more believable.
posted by octothorpe at 5:43 AM on April 17, 2022

I'm not sure I buy the ending though

To me, the ending makes the Wife character make sense. It makes many of her actions and responses, minor as they might have appeared, fall into place like bits in a puzzle. Why the line earlier about 'don't do anything that will irrevocably change you'? Had she murdered before? Was use of birth control in the pre-nup? Why the rage then? As soon as she waited a beat too long to untie CEO, I knew who she was. She was a survivor. And she quickly and cleanly realised the multitude of gains possible or losses imminent if she didn't take advantage of the whole scene. I found it satisfying.

Also, I admire Jesse Plemons' acting.
posted by Thella at 9:42 PM on April 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

But without a clear sense of tone, we search for more meaning than the film is capable of giving, always waiting for the ironic or surreal twist that never comes.

Why was this reviewer looking for a twist? This is a pretty simple story - 3 people, each trapped in their own way, getting stuck together in a pressure cooker situation. There's no twist, no deeper meaning, just the question of who gets out and how. The only "surprise" was that it would be the wife, and that she would be able to free herself of all the traps she was in with her choices in that moment.

There's nothing ironic or surreal here, just someone seeing an opportunity and seizing it. Was she right to do so? The meaning comes from how we each try to find an answer to that question.
posted by nubs at 10:31 AM on April 18, 2022

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