An empty thriller that wastes a great cast and concept on a lifeless script. You may want to stick around for that explosive ending though.
This review of the Netflix film Windfall (2022) does not contain spoilers.
Nepotism is rife in Hollywood and Windfall makes for a prime example of this need to keep things in the family. Director Charlie McDowell is the son of well-known actor Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) and the director’s wife, Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins), is one of the three leads in this home invasion thriller. There’s nothing new to add to the debate on celebrity privilege, after all, it has become an ingrained part of popular culture, but it seems odd that the son of a millionaire would make a film that explores themes of class and inequality.
The movie opens with a long, static Hitchcock-inspired credits sequence. It’s a cinematic start with a classic noir score and extravagant aesthetics of a scenic vacation home. We’re introduced to Jason Segel’s character, who wanders the orange groves aimlessly, basking in the hot midday sun. His name is never revealed throughout the film, however, the end credits go with: Nobody. And he is a ‘nobody’, disheveled and on edge. This shifty stranger proceeds to rob the home of all its jewelry and hidden cash.
Then comes the first twist, the homeowners return unannounced, jolting this carefree thief into panic mode. Jesse Plemons plays the smart-arsed, cunning billionaire known simply as ‘CEO’, and his feisty yet down-trodden ‘Wife’ is the aforementioned Lily Collins (Emily in Paris). Our foolish thief tries to escape unnoticed, but is spotted instantly and therefore seems obligated to create hostages out of this wealthy couple. In a nice change of pace, the victims of the piece don’t actually take to that stereotype. The CEO is constantly in negotiation with the burglar, almost guiding him through the process and the stubborn Wife struggles to follow any of Nobody’s demands. They are sassy and short with their captor, which makes for a pleasant modern spin.
Segel portrays the out of his depth robber with style. He’s not quite a buffoon and not quite unhinged, just a wronged man searching for some redemption in an unfair world. It reminded me of Seth Rogen’s role in Pam & Tommy, yet with less of the tomfoolery. As the trio interact, awaiting the delivery of a hefty ransom, co-writer Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) structures the narrative like a play. The three make pointless small talk, which leads to some long, slow sequences. The quality definitely dips in the middle section. You’ll have to wait until the end for any real dramatics, although many may have switched off by then.
This is a hollow film that squanders a great cast and concept. The movie is bookended by an intriguing opener and an exciting end, which does save this from mediocrity. But, like me, viewers will be expecting a whole lot more from this Netflix original and will leave sorely disappointed.
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