‘Windfall’ (2022) Review: Twists and Turns on a Couple's Vacation

Nuha Hassan reviews Charlie McDowell's 2022 film Windfall, a Hitchcockian slow-burn thriller that sets the audience up for a twist.

‘Windfall’ (2022) Review: Twists and Turns on a Couple's Vacation
(L to R) Jason Segal, Lily Collins, and Jesse Plemons star in Charlie McDowell's Windfall. 

Charlie McDowell’s Windfall is about a couple who land themselves in the middle of a robbery in their own home. The film stars Lily Collins (Netflix’s Emily in Paris), Jason Segel (CBS’s How I Met Your Mother)  and Jesse Plemons (Netflix’s The Power of the Dog) in a slow-burn thriller that sets the audience up for a twist. Windfall uses empty space, characters, and silence as a way to amplify the thriller aspects, almost making it a horror movie. Each of the characters is stuck in their mental prison, which leads to a twist: who actually is the villain?

A man (Segal) walks around a holiday home and wipes his fingerprints on the doorknobs. As he is about to leave, the man steals a few accessories and finds money hidden in the study room. Unbeknownst to him, a wealthy CEO (Plemons) and his wife (Collins) arrive at their holiday home on a last-minute getaway. His second escape attempt becomes unsuccessful when the wife finds him as he tries to leave through the front door. The man becomes paranoid that the couple might call the cops since he got caught, so he takes them hostage and capitalises on the opportunity. He negotiates with them to give half a million dollars and bargains his way out of the situation, but the man figures out that it is complicated to rob someone’s house and bargain with them without a solid plan.

The CEO holds the wife up in an embrace, while the robber hides in a nook, out of sight.

Windfall’s plot consists of three characters and one plot, which works neatly in the space and location. There are no outside distractions and it completely relies on the dialogue and conflict between the CEO, his wife and the robber. The audience doesn't know much about the robber, except that he is not a seasoned robber and knows of the wealthy tech CEO. The scene between the couple and the robber negotiating the money shows how inexperienced Segal’s character is. It’s somewhat funny and shows how money isn’t a huge part of the CEO’s life because he agrees to give half a million dollars to him. The robber is extremely paranoid of getting caught and yet, ends up in situations that are extremely hilarious and stubborn at the same time.

The dynamic between the CEO and the robber is interesting. Between them, a man who has everything and a man who has nothing goes against each other. The CEO is powerless without his money and his gun, which the robber took from him. He doesn’t have anything that he can exchange with the robber, so he figures out ways to use manipulation and greed to escape the situation. He tries to get under the robber’s skin and break him down so that when he finally feels weak, the CEO will take control of the situation. For instance, he uses the Gardener (Omar Leyva) as a pawn. When the Gardener arrives unexpectedly at their home, he shows the wealthy couple and the robber his plans to renovate the garden. He asks the CEO to sign off the drawing and he scribbles “Call 911” but it doesn’t go according to plan. The Gardener is only an innocent bystander that gets caught up in the middle of the drama.

Meanwhile, the robber has the power to call the shots and he still fails miserably almost every time. His inability to negotiate a good price for the bargain and check for cameras keep him strapped to the couple longer than he expected. But as the three characters get to know each other, he learns both about their lives and the secrets the couple keep from each other. He attempts to use the problems to play the upper hand, and it’s interesting to see what happens when the CEO is shown the limits of his control and greed. The audience sees how the CEO’s characteristics change to the grotesque person that he is and how he looks down on people that are less than him.

The robber, wife, and CEO stand in the sun on a gravel path with trees on both sides.

The CEO is not based on a quirky billionaire and yet, he shows the greed and corrupt mind of a wealthy man. When the robber locks the CEO and his wife in a sauna, he doesn’t think about his partner. All he thinks about is how he had to move his meetings just to make time for her, and the wife corrected him, he changed his schedule for them. This pattern of selfish behaviour continues as the CEO puts his safety above his wife, which makes her feel upset. The couple gets into dangerous situations which involves a gun and an unexpected murder, all in the space of unplanned robbery.

On the other hand, the Wife is handed a lot of details. She worked as an assistant before getting married to the CEO. She has no desire to have children with her husband and knows that he has been unfaithful to her. Their relationship is already on the rocks because of it, but the CEO’s lack of compassion for her, even before the situation, makes her think about what she wants in life. Her discontent with her marriage and her husband’s true nature opens her eyes and he belittles her every chance that he gets, and the audience seemingly understands why the outcome ended the way it did.

Windfall has some funny moments that some viewers may appreciate. Its slow-burn twist at the third act cements itself not only as a thriller but a comedy, although it doesn’t fall under it. By the end of the movie, an unexpected hostage escapes the situation, but it all comes at a cost. The audience sits back to wonder how and why they ended up in that situation, either to save themselves from perpetual sadness or to escape from the robber. Windfall doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun and shows how imperfect the characters are, regardless of where they stand. It’s a good thriller and doesn’t necessarily fit into the genre of “pandemic movies,” even though the movie is shot during that period.

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