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From the very opening seconds of Windfall, its credits flashing over a static shot of an upscale country ranch set to an old-fashioned orchestral score, there’s no question you’re in for some homage.
In fact, Netflix’s official synopsis for its new thriller — about a mysterious man (Jason Segel) whose housebreak plot gets complicated when its arrogant tech CEO owner (Jesse Plemons) and his philanthropist wife (Lily Collins) arrive mid-robbery — even describes it as “Hitchcockian.”
“For me, it's a sort of modern-day take on a classic [film] noir, but I really wanted to call back to those films and look at those films as to why they work so well,” director and co-writer Charlie McDowell (The One I Love, The Discovery) told us during a recent virtual press day (watch above). “And I think a lot of that has to do with the score and the feeling of the score, and then also how they shot them.”
For Segel, who conceived the film’s story with McDowell, it was about being defined by their constraints.
“We had one location to shoot at. It was the middle of COVID and quarantine… And we had a few people who were willing to come make the movie. We had no idea when the world was gonna open up. So it was this movie that was by its nature, super small. And the style that lends itself most to that is noir. Something claustrophobic and [with] a small cast.”
It was an intimate production for various reasons, one being there are only four actors in the entire film. The crew was small. And the project marked the first professional collaboration for McDowell (the son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen) and Collins (daughter of Phil Collins), who were engaged at the time and married this past fall.
As the story progresses and they’re held hostage, it becomes clear Collins’s wife is stuck in a toxic marriage with Plemons’s CEO, which the Emily in Paris actress admits made her appreciate McDowell.
“I mean, I'm not gonna lie. Jesse’s character treats her pretty badly,” Collins says. “And to have my fiancé at the time on set to just remind me, what it was [like] to be treated nicely felt like, you know, that wasn't so shabby at the end of the day. It really was such a wonderful experience to feel safe and nurtured throughout.”
Told of his newlywed wife’s comments, McDowell laughs.
“That was my manipulation there,” he cracks. “I'm gonna show you the worst version of what this can be like, and I'm not so bad.”
Windfall is currently streaming on Netflix.
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Watch the trailer: