Windfall (2022) Movie Explained: Ending and Themes Analyzed
Windfall (2022) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed: Directed by Charlie McDowell and produced by High-Frequency Entertainment and Mutressa Movies, Windfall promises to be a crime thriller. However, it is dipped in elements of dark comedy so saturated that by the end of its 92-minutes long runtime, you’ll feel yourself smiling.
There’s a relief – welcome and unwelcome at the same time – by the end of this film. The screenplay provides scope for only three actors to play their parts with diligence. The casting is spot on. Lily James, McDowell’s wife, plays the young wife to the white, narcissist, billionaire CEO, played by Jesse Plemons.
Jason Segel plays the ‘Nobody’; he is the turning point in the, otherwise, rich life of the couple. Here, his natural charisma is replaced with a half-perplexed and half-desperate expression, which makes the character opaque and our interest afloat because we know that he is not in this situation for the sake of violence.
It is quite interesting that the setting – a house surrounded by an orange orchard, a swimming pool, and a zen garden – can be the seat of such a dubious crime, yet it is only obvious. You’d almost think, at the beginning of the movie, that we are back to the property where Nyles and Sarah are seen hanging out in Palm Springs (2020).
What stole the show for me was the background score. It helps with the pace of the film and contributes to achieving the ‘slow burn’ that it aims for. It ticks that one Hitchcockian thriller mark for me – portraying crime for depicting mystery rather than stressing too explicitly upon it – albeit, not successfully.
However, it is a film you can enjoy if you are in a mood to wait patiently till the end for your reward. There’s a chance you might get a little confused because of its commentary on American wealth and privilege systems. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered below. Hereafter, the content is FULL of spoilers. We suggest you come back for the rest after streaming Winfall on Netflix first.
Windfall (2022) Movie Synopsis & Summary:
A man (we are calling him ‘nobody’) has trespassed into the vacant but extremely well-maintained property of a rich CEO. We watch him lazing around the house, plucking oranges from the orchard and peeing in the shower, as the owners – the CEO and his wife – of the house turn up. They are about to settle in when the wife catches ‘nobody’ in the act of leaving their home. Hence, begins a hostage drama that doesn’t quite tell us what it aims to be till the very end.
The CEO and his wife are willing to cooperate with ‘nobody’. They promise to not turn him in, swearing that they don’t have either a gun or a CCTV camera within the premises. Nobody decides to lock them up in the sauna while he tries to flee. However, he soon realizes that none of their assurances is true. When he makes his way back to the house, he catches the couple in their act of escaping. The CEO, consequently, decides to get him half a million dollars in cash as ransom money to let them go. He gets on a call with his secretary and is informed that the money shall reach the gates of his house within 36 hours.
Nobody, thereafter, accompanies the CEO and his wife as they spend their time watching a film, strolling through the property, and making forced conversation. He gets them to talk about themselves and their marriage. It is soon revealed that the CEO and his wife are trying to conceive a child. Before they retire to their rooms for the night, the CEO tells his wife to make sweet talk to ‘nobody’, telling her that charming her ways around him might get them in an advantageous position. The wife reveals to ‘nobody’ that she is unhappy in her marriage, but he retorts saying she should not play the victim for having made a conscious choice, marrying a man of wealth and power.
The next morning, while they are all awaiting the money, the gardener responsible for the upkeep of the property turns up at their door. He has spotted ‘nobody’, who is now introduced by the couple as the wife’s cousin. He shows the couple and nobody around the garden he has built and tells them about his plan of planting an oak tree. He asks the CEO to sign his sketch of the vision of the future garden, who writes ‘Call 911’ on it. Nobody soon figures out that the CEO tried to play smart and takes the gardener hostage as well. Heated conversation and a misfired shot later, the gardener accidentally trips and bleeds to death.
In the evening, when the money finally arrives, ‘nobody’ sets the wife free to fetch it from the gate. Once at the gate, she tries to get help from a car passing up but couldn’t. Before leaving with his money, ‘nobody’ admits to wishing he lived the life of the CEO and informs him about the birth control pills in his wife’s purse. The wife manages to free herself from the ropes she was tied with and kills the CEO, her husband, and ‘nobody’. Finally, she steps out of the house with a sigh of relief.
Why did the wife have birth control pills in her purse?
As is evident from the conversation between the wife and her husband, the CEO, they were trying to conceive a baby. However, it also becomes quite evident that the decision is wholly one-sided, and the wife has only grudgingly come to accept it. The same attitude is seen when the topics of her tattoo and her career come up.
It appears that the CEO is the one who holds takes the call in their relationship. The birth control pills, then, are not only a way to keep the wife from conceiving a child, but they also allow her to exercise her authority over her body. The choice of motherhood ultimately lies with her, and she is exercising it, in whatever small way she can, to make it through the demands of the marriage.
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Why did the Everyman break into the CEO’s House?
The Everyman a.k.a. the ‘nobody’ confesses at the end of the film that he has broken into the house of the CEO because he wanted to experience the material pleasures in his life. If we align this reason with what we see him doing at the beginning of the film – eating oranges and lazing around the house – it makes sense, although that is a blind assumption we are making by taking the answers at their face value.
‘Nobody’ adds before leaving that now that he has put a face to the master of these exquisite pleasures, he’d no longer love to be in his shoes because he thought that the CEO had everything and nothing at the same time, i.e. all the wealth but little love or respect in his marriage.
Why did the wife kill the CEO?
It is quite apparent right from the start of the film that the CEO and his wife are pretending to lead a happily married life, at least the wife is. She is constantly bogged down by her husband’s decisions and his lack of consideration for her. She is a young trophy wife to a rich CEO – a realization that sediments through the course of the film as she starts to visibly show displeasure towards the CEO and his selfish actions.
She is stifled in the relationship but has, at least, one secret secured well from the CEO – the birth control pills which allow her to exercise her agency over the decision of making a baby with him. The ‘nobody’, before leaving with his money, divulges this secret to the CEO. Her last bit of agency is gone. It angers her enough to make her club ‘nobody’ to death. However, I assume she kills her husband, the CEO because she finally has a chance of walking out free from this restraining marriage, reclaiming her agency in the process.
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Is Windfall a dark commentary on socio-economic privilege?
Windfall is curiously caught up in the web of social commentary right from the moment the three characters sit down to negotiate the amount that the CEO must arrange for the ‘nobody’ as their ransom price. The obnoxious white privilege of a billionaire sticks out throughout the film. Although the CEO harps on how judiciously he has taken the decisions to reach a stage in his life where he can afford the affluence, he doesn’t shy away from pointing out to the ‘nobody’ that he is devoid of right judgment and can make nothing out his life.
His attitude towards his wife is equally patriarchal, making him take important decisions on behalf of both of them. The plentitude of socio-economic privilege makes the CEO an unlikable character while informing the audience what power – monetary, sexual, and racial – can turn a person into.
His wife is a self-proclaimed victim of the marriage she chose for herself. In her case, the socio-economic privilege stems from being married to the CEO, who also paid her student loans. She is a victim of the social relationship she shares with her husband but holds an upper hand over ‘nobody’, a character we don’t know much about but can safely assume to belong to lower economic strata than them.
The character of the gardener, a poor common man of color desperate to please the rich patrons with his art of gardening, occupies the lowest tier in this hierarchy of privilege shown in the film. He commands the least amount of power. All the four characters claim all four different kinds of social hierarchy, making the film readable through a lens of sifting privileges in the current American landscape.
Windfall (2022) Movie Themes Analyzed:
Freedom of Choice
A fundamental right according to most Constitutions around the world, freedom of choice is still a myth. The one who can exercise this right is the one who holds maximum socio-economic and sexual privilege in society. Here, it is the CEO who sits at the pinnacle of privilege, followed by his wife, ‘nobody’, and the gardener.
However, the film surely problematizes the hierarchy of privilege by ensuring that the ‘nobody’ holds the wife and the CEO hostage in their own house. It becomes radical in slowly turning into a survival drama by the end. Even then, the choice that the wife makes in murdering the men in the house comes from her freedom of choice to conceive a baby, which was later compromised by ‘nobody’. She acts in rage, possibly, like someone must when their fundamental human right to choose is threatened.
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The universality of the characters
Intriguingly, the characters in the film are all nameless, making them prototypes of the people they represent in society. The CEO stands for the white male privilege, who thinks he is threatened because of having to be ‘politically correct’ in the world now. He is obnoxiously rich and proud of his riches but doesn’t shy from belittling others who he thinks are below in – a trait pointed out again and again in recent American pop culture, most notably in The White Lotus (2021).
The wife stands for the women conditioned to be below men in the patriarchal structure of society. Her wealth gives her the freedom to go out there and do things in the world, but it doesn’t secure her a voice in the world – an irony on the social work she pursues in life.
The ‘nobody’ stands for a layman. It can be anyone courageous enough to peel into the hierarchy of privilege existing in society and problematize it.
Lastly, the gardener, a man of color and not the most economically well off, is a man with a dream. You can tell that he has a happy family, a foil to the character of the CEO. He is also treated wrongly and suffers meaninglessly in the crossfire between the CEO and ‘nobody’, a true depiction of how the least privileged must suffer due to their position in this hierarchy of privilege.
Windfall (2022) Movie Ending Explained:
When the gardener is leaving the property after having his sketch signed by the CEO, he realizes that the sign is really a cry for help – Call 911. However, wary of being played foul by the CEO, ‘nobody’ was watching out for the gardener’s actions from the living room window and realized that he will have to take him as a hostage too.
Soon, he is seated in the living room with the CEO, the wife, and the gardener. The CEO’s obnoxious commentary about privilege tips ‘nobody’ into firing a bullet at a distance. A moment of confusion and the gardener tries to run for the nearest exist – a glass door – and he trips, smashing the glass, and bleeding to death.
The helplessness of ‘nobody’ is apparent in this situation. He ties the husband and the wife in two separate corners of the house, everyone is waiting for the money and when it finally arrives, ‘nobody’ unties the wife and asks her to go and fetch it for him.
She tries to flee, stop a car passing by, but with no help in sight, she goes back inside. ‘Nobody’, before he leaves, tells the CEO that he’d have loved to live his affluent life but now that he knows him, he thinks that the SEO is miserable, informing him on the way out that his wife’s been using birth control pills.
Simultaneously, the wife, who has been trying to untie herself, is stunned into inaction when her secret is spilled. In a flick of rage, she lifts a small statue from the living room and clubs ‘nobody’ to death when he is about to walk out of the house with the money. She comes back in and empties the cartridge of the gun upon her husband.
The film ends with her walking out of the door, heaving a sigh of relief.
It is an unforeseen ending that has left all critics polarised in their opinions. The car that swooshes past the wife is a slight hint at how society chooses to turn a blind eye to the existing socio-economic structures, or a call for help. Hence, the wife must do what she can to survive. I think it just as well deserves to be called a survival drama for this ending.
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Windfall (2022) Links – IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes
Windfall (2022) Cast – Jason Segel, Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons