Synopsis – A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.
My Take – This film depicts one of the most recognizable situations faced by various families across the globe due to the recession & the general economic divide, a situation which more or less everyone would feel about. The film portrays the stark reality of not only the housing market, but many economic systems as well – to either play the game or let the game play you, and the unsettling thoughts that greed and wealth can impose on morale. The dramatic impositions in the film are so horrifyingly realistic and relate able that it makes other generic Hollywood themes seem almost irrelevant. Prolific American independent director Ramin Bahrani‘s film is both powerful and impactful in the way that it evokes emotion that is universally relate able, losing a place with so many personal memories and sentiments. In addition, it elevates the socioeconomic condition of the general society to a new and wider level, making it not only a film of drama and tragedy, but also a topic of conversation. “America doesn’t bail out losers. America bails out winners.” How is that for an American dream motto? This axiom, among many others presented in the film, is the foundation as the blood- splattered frames of Ramin Bahrani‘s latest offering begin to roll. His film focuses on highly secretive and mostly broken individuals, the challenges and obstacles many of his protagonists face, & are mapped out and executed in a unique, but usually tragic ways. His expertise is focused more on the formula of their progression than the final outcome of the whole event. Unlike others, focusing more on the narrative and development of the story, rather than his deep, often slow, evolution of memorable characters. The narrative is paced with the urgency of a thriller while also portraying (indirectly) how the government favored policies to the wealthy big cash people rather than ordinary citizens.
The story follows Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a general contractor in the construction industry, who is struggling to support his son Conner (Noah Lomax) & mother Lynn (Laura Dern), while attempting to save his Orlando family home from foreclosure. Unfortunately for him time runs out when manipulative real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up reinforced by the sheriff’s department, ordering to evacuate their home. Without a home, the family temporarily settles in a motel alongside other tenants in the same predicament. Life becomes unsettling in this new arrangement, Conner doesn’t adjust well in a new school and Dennis is unable to find work until he coincidentally comes face to face with Rick Carver again. Carver offers Dennis work, and slowly he adopts the corrupt work ethics that put his family out of their home. Dennis soon embraces his new task with his own crew not only forcing evictions but also stealing air conditioners and water pumps from the empty houses and selling them at a profit. Dennis begins to become the very person who kicked him out of his home until he finally realizes the saddest thing in the world is not of poverty, but loss of dignity. Nash’s choices and inner struggle is a sharp and dangerous double-edged sword. Nash is a truly tormented moral character who, through his journey of self-discovery, wealth and pain, always draws on the most basic human elements. The biggest question Bahrani leaves audiences with is, “what would you do if you were left in the same situation?” The filmmaker, whose adamant cinematic attitude is almost non- apologetic on-screen, chooses to highlight a truly sad time in American history. Set in Florida in 2010, when homes were being repossessed by the bank for every chime of the clock on the wall, the film shows a raw portrait of every family’s worst nightmare; a moment of complete vulnerability and uncertainty–being left on the side of the road, with all you’re worldly possessions sitting on the lawn. As troubling as it sounds, some of the best scenes of the film are when people are being evicted from their homes. Beginning with Nash, his family, and ranging from young, old, non-English speaking, accepting and manic, the film shows the different shades of people, sometimes dangerous and always desperate.
Thankfully, Bahrani put enough focus on the narrative and visual style to keep viewers interested in his main protagonist and antagonist in the film. There were two things about the movie that bothered me enough to pull me out of the tense drama temporarily – There were a couple of big coincidental moments (one of which is directly related to the final scene) that seemed a bit too fate-like. For a movie with the very real backdrop of the US housing market crash, and such believable characters, these unrealistic occurrences seemed out of place. Plus at one point, a montage format is used to quickly show Garfield‘s character go through a bunch of different exchanges with other characters. This quick cutting from scenario to scenario is a missed opportunity to fully immerse us viewers in a couple of heart-wrenching moments. As a result, the mixed emotions which we are about to feel weren’t as strong as they could have been. Andrew Garfield may be know for his role as afflicted teen Peter Parker or (the now rejected) Spider-Man by many, while audiences may know Michael Shannon best for his villainous turn as General Zod in the recent Superman reboot Man of Steel, but the best part about watching this film is analyzing these men, and seeing them transform before our eyes into the demons that haunt the streets and doorsteps of everyday people. Holding his own against a larger than life acting force that is Shannon (who is excellent as the true monster spiced with malice and charm.), Garfield‘s Nash allows himself to feed off Carver’s greed and sinisterly convincing monologues with scenes of heart-wrench, grit and sensitivity. Laura Dern should clearly do more movies, she is brilliant here. Kudos to those involved with casting as every actor/actress, right down to those who were only in one or two scenes, did a really good job. There were a lot of confrontational emotions in this movie and the actors/actresses did a great job of getting me to empathize with their characters. On the whole, ‘99 Homes‘, is a tragic, vivid, exciting, one of the most complete and appealing films I have seen based on the unfortunate crisis. Founded on concrete performances, sturdy direction and a steady narrative, 99 Homes is a good watch.
Director – Ramin Bahrani
Rated – R
Run Time – 112 minutes