Windfall movie review: Netflix's well-acted thriller entertains, but falls short of its Hitchcockian ambitions | Entertainment

Windfall movie review: Netflix's well-acted thriller entertains, but falls short of its Hitchcockian ambitions | Entertainment
Windfall movie review: Netflix's well-acted thriller entertains, but falls short of its Hitchcockian ambitions | Entertainment

Windfall is a well-acted Netflix thriller that entertains but falls short of its Hitchcockian goals

Windfall Movie Review: For most of its runtime, this Netflix thriller plays smoothly.  However, it struggles to manage its tone, and often can't decide whether it wants to be a social thriller with comedic undertones or noir.

  • Windfall Film Film Director: Charlie McDowell

  • Windfall Movie Cast: Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons, Jason Segel

  • Windfall Movie Movie Rating: 2.5 Stars

Charlie McDowell's Netflix mystery-thriller Windfall has Hitchcockian ambitions.  The term has been used so often and has become so meaningless that it can stamp any vaguely effective thriller these days.  But with Windfall, McDowell attempts to be positive, classically Hitchcockian. 

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This is evident from the intro itself, with the camera focused on the terrace of a luxurious retreat, the curtains of a French window blowing softly in the wind, the gravity of ensuing events underscored by the tense, old-timey background score.  .  The scene then merges into an established shot that is stretched 180 degrees to show a pool.  Shots featuring an orange grove, a windmill, and woods – all on the same property – follow. man drinks fruit juice (orange, what else?) inside an open gazebo.  He leans aimlessly toward the grove and chews the fruit, before sitting on a chair next to the pool.  Until then, it's clear he's not here.  He is an interloper.  The property belongs to a tech magnate (Jesse Plemons) and his wife (Lily Collins), who arrive soon after for an eleventh-hour break, sending the intruder into a tizzy.

It's an undeniably impressive premise, if a little pretentious, and it's inevitable that the rest of the film isn't going to be at least a little underwhelming.

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The film makes a curious decision not to give a specific name to its trio of main characters.  For example, Segel's character is called 'Nobody' in the credits, as he is one of the people fighting back against Eve.  The screenplay is written by Justin Leder and Andrew Kevin Walker (the latter wrote David Fincher's Seven).  The billionaire in question is called the CEO, and his wife is called, well, the wife.

One can see what the film is trying to do in order to mold the characters into their younger status at the social level.  This goes well with the film's dominant theme of class identity and how it affects individuals.  For example, no one really is someone who might have lost their job at the company in a round of layoffs, something the CEO called a necessary measure to maintain the financial health of the company.  The CEO himself, a scornful, moral figure who is a stand-in for any of the many tech-bros like Zuckerberg and Musk, is happily oblivious of his privilege, saying that "f***ing sucks".  To be one of the richest man in the world.

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The wife feels more kinship than anyone, as we learn that she was raised from a similar background and that her marriage was the only thing she had to do to make it into this world.  She also slightly hates her husband, abstaining from sex whenever possible and is on birth control, unaware of him.

In fact, all three are dissatisfied in their lives.  No one is tired of being stepped in by richer, more upwardly moving men, and the wife is tired of this male-dominated world.  CEOs also admit that they are targeted every day by 'nothing' people who wish they could fail (all with straight faces).  Plemons, who are used to playing weirdos by now, scary is good here. 

For most of its runtime, the windfall makes for smooth sailing.  It struggles to manage its tone, and often can't decide what it wants to be – a social thriller or a full-blown noir with comedic undertones.

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But it is masterful in the way it balances its central theme with thriller elements, and maintains tension throughout.  Well, almost over.  Because in the end, it becomes a very different film in the last few minutes.  Far from the tense, focused thriller it was for most of the runtime, it delves into an ending that feels completely unearned.  An ending, mind you, didn't feel like Jang was a credible story leading up to that point.  But it is the equivalent of a vehicle making a wild herd in the woods for no particular reason.

If you can get past that ending, though, there's actually a pretty good thriller out there.

Source: Kshitij Rawat, The Indian Express, Direct News 99