99 HOMES [2015]

99-Homes-Poster

Directed by Ramin Bahrani

Written by Amir Naderi, Bahareh Azimi, Ramin Bahrani

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern


Thanks to some cracking acting from both Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, a very well written and observational script, and a simple but effective screenplay, 99 Homes is a drama that manages to turn a story about real estate into an incredibly tense and emotional experience.

The story begins with single father Dennis Nash working on a construction site, until he is told to go home; that the construction firm he was working for has gone broke and two weeks of work will go unpaid. This quickly leads to what must be a horribly familiar scene for some unlucky people; Nash is struggling in the courtroom, his words going unheard as he begs the judge to not take his family home from him. The atmosphere feels cold and clinical, as Nash is simply told by the judge that he has another 4,000 cases waiting, and most of them are no different. It is a quick but telling scene; quickly putting into perspective just how many people went through these struggles, and how they were treated in court.

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It doesn’t take long for Rick Carver to enter the fray, a crooked businessman who makes his money in anyway possible within a seemingly dead real estate industry. Constantly on his phone, looking for any chance he can to make some money – often at others’ expense – Carver is a perfect example of how greed and an obsession with the bottom line can corrupt a person beyond the point of no return. He arrives at Nash’s front door with the police, and a smooth and calm demeanour, he softly explains to Nash that the house is now owned by the bank, and that he is now trespassing. This all makes for a very depressing scene, though you would never think it looking into Carver’s eyes, who only sees giant sacks with a dollar signs on them. He also seems to harbour a distaste for the people he is kicking out. As far as he sees it, these people borrowed money from the bank and didn’t pay it back. They took it and didn’t give it back, simple. Carver is very black and white in this sense, with no grey areas to be found – which is probably why he is able to live his own life in luxury, complete with family and a maid, without going insane from guilt. Everything he does he can logistically explain away.

After an emotional scene, Nash and his family (his mother and his only son) are unceremoniously forced out of their house by Carver and his cronies, and the family are given till the end of that day to pick up all their belongings – all of which have been moved out of the house and onto the front lawn. With no place to go, they move into a motel, which is filled with other evictees struggling to make ends meet. To make things worse, the situation has interrupted young Connor Nash’s education, as well as separating him from his friends.

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The best part of the story comes next and drives the rest of the film. Dennis Nash comes across Carver soon after his eviction, claiming that his tools had been stolen. Given his financial situation, he was probably lying through his teeth, as when Carver offers him work – the man who evicted him not too long before – Nash readily accepts the dismal pay and eventually becomes Carver’s apprentice of sorts, helping him kick people out of their homes, just as Carver kicked out Nash. At first I thought, why the hell would anyone work for the man who kicked them out of their house? I didn’t buy it. But it becomes apparent that Nash accepts the job out of financial necessity; he doesn’t want to be doing this. He obviously knows the pain he is inflicting on other people, and is consequently conflicted whenever he has to do his job. This internal conflict gives each eviction a heavy impact, as Nash is far from the slick, calm, well-rehearsed Carver. But what choice does he have? He can’t find work anywhere else, and he is finding that the amounts Carver are paying him are growing. Has the greed of Carver rubbed off on the younger Nash? This is the main question that drives the final act, one that is tense and will have you guessing.


This drama feels fresh, as we live in a capitalist society, and there will always be people like Rick Carver, for whom the bottom line is top priority. Greed is an easy drug to become hooked on, and many people compromise their own values and beliefs due to this money-lust. Compounding this is the fact that the cost of living is going up consistently, which give the evictions in thefive beer(1) film some real dramatic heft. Running for less than two hours, it is an extremely effective and emotional story told efficiently. Through the story and the script, 99 Homes certainly takes some pot-shots at the American government, but this feels like a natural part of the movie. It is reality; there is no bias here. Underrated and under-appreciated, I hope this finds a bigger audience when it hits DVD.

Only one beer short of a sixer

5/6

21 Comments on “99 HOMES [2015]

  1. Excellent review! I’m with you in hoping it finds a bigger audience, more people need to see 99 Homes because it’s not only tense and powerfully acted, it’s incredibly relevant and lacks melodrama. All of the developmentsplit-screen happen naturally and the moral dilemma that builds throughout is ever more fascinating. Watch as a broke and desperate young father drinks the poison that has infiltrated many an opportunistic businessman, and as the story shifts from a tale of desperation into one of greed and materialism. A brilliant screenplay and outstanding direction from Bahran. Can’t believe how overlooked this one has become. The fact it hasn’t gotten any love from the Academy isn’t that surprising I guess….

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  2. Hi Jordan and happy new year! Sorry I’ve been away so long. I wasn’t able to find a cinema near me showing 99 Homes when it was released here last year and that’s a real shame. I’m a big fan of Michael Shannon (loved him in Take Shelter and Boardwalk Empire) so I hope I can catch up on this one soon.

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  3. Another movie from last year I need to watch. I’ll be all over this when it hits DVD. 🙂 I’m liking Garfield’s movies choices post Spiderman and Shannon’s the man!

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  4. Great review Jordan! I really liked this as well. The performances in particular were really great, I absolutely love Michael Shannon in these sort of roles and always great to see Andrew Garfield in just about anything. The whole film felt like a spiritual successor to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street in the way it portrayed the themes of greed and power

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    • Yeah I haven’t seen a lot of Shannon but I’ve liked what i’ve seen. ‘Bug’ was good, if not a bit unintentionally funny at times. I can’t actually name a flick off the top of my head that I’ve seen Garfield in, but he was great opposite Shannon. They were bloody great together.

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      • Garfield really caught my eye in David Fincher’s The Social Network which I think is a brilliant film and Garfield is equally brilliant in it. As for Shannon, he’s been turning up one stellar supporting performance after another for some time but two of his best turns for me came in Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road, where he completely steals the show from DiCaprio and Winslet in his 15 minutes of screentime and the second in Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter in which he is insanely good and carries the entire film on his shoulders.

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      • I haven’t seen either of those. Man there are so many movies I need to watch! I’ve only seen him in ‘Bug’, where he was great, though the script had him overact a bit

        Liked by 1 person

  5. YES!! Glad to see a high praise from you on this one Jordan. I was super impressed by Bahrani’s understated yet powerful storytelling style here. Both Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield are superb, esp Shannon who’s so effortlessly ominous in the role.

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      • Remember that scene where Garfield was bickering with some other workers and Shannon showed up n yelled ‘cut it out!’ They all immediately stopped talking. He’s a big guy too so there’s that physical presence too.

        P.S. Hope to see you around FC soon Jordan!

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  6. I really wanted to see this but it only showed for about a week in our local theatre.

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