MOVIE: 99 HOMES
STARRING: ANDREW GARFIELD; MICHAEL SHANNON; LAURA DERN; NOAH LOMAX
DIRECTED BY: RAMIN BAHRANI
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ Stars (Out of 4)
There are moments in director Ramin Bahrani's film, 99 Homes, that occur like a horror film. With a jolt of reality, that will strike fear into all of us, the Man Push Cart director shows the spokes of a corrupt wheel that was the housing crisis. It was an epidemic that many families dealt with when banks foreclosed without warning, leaving families on the streets. Suicides, loved ones torn apart, and the rich men at the top who are the hammers told to hit the nails. 99 Homes is not just a well made film, it is a film that should shake the very foundation of the subjects it deals with.
Andrew Garfield stars as Dennis Nash, a single father, living in Florida with his mother (Laura Dern) and son (Noah Lomax). He is a construction worker who does everything that he can in order to keep paying the mortgage that he owes to the bank. Unfortunately for him, the day has come where the bank has sold his house to Carver Realty, which is run by the wealthy and powerful Rick Carver (played devilishly by Michael Shannon). Nash's family becomes another one of the many victims of Carver's routine evictions. This puts Dennis in a situation, his back is against the wall, and making a deal with the devil is now the only move to getting his family home back.
In a shocking and powerful opening, Bahrani uses a steady cam, single shot, that follows Carver through a home he is currently evicting. The typically lower budget director, uses an excellent score to set the mood of fear, but the shock is that inside the house is a gruesome scene where the owner's brains are splattered on a mirror in a bathroom. This is what is at stake in this film. Bahrani is a director of films that speak for social justice, especially for those whose voices need to be heard. It is not just about having a roof over your head at night. These homes are the livelihood of the families involved. A combination of embarrassment, fear, and rage overcome these families who lose it all, while the wealthy get richer off of it all.
Yet, as Dennis continues to help Carver with his business, the script which was co-written by Bahrani and Amir Naderi, begins to reveal a human side to the megalomaniac’s rise to power. There is a narrative thread about the American dream and how for Dennis, even though he may not like the position he is in, it is not Carver who put him there, but the American banks. The tables will be turned when Dennis becomes the one kicking families out of houses for Carver. Both Shannon and Garfield give powerful, human performances that show one man's fight for his family and another man's fight for his enormous amounts of wealth. The Oscars should take notice.
99 Homes is filmmaking that speaks for the working class. Bahrani's history of filmmaking has been deep into the lower-middle class of the world in films like Goodbye Solo and Chop Shop. Yet, even here with a larger cast, which includes strong support form Dern and Lomax, he is still able to send a message to the 1% that may not understand what kind of effect they have on us all. That number 99 is certainly bigger than 1, and 99 Homes is about us.
3 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady