Taylor E., Here…
When down on his luck construction worker and single dad, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), loses his childhood home, he takes a job working for Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), the real estate broker who took his home away.
The film opens upon a grizzly scene: A suicide at a foreclosed home on eviction day. We’re introduced to Richard Carver (Shannon), an Orlando real estate mogul who is as cut-throat as they come. Instantly you hate him, as he cracks jokes about the suicide and laments how he’s left with a literal mess to clean up before he can sell the foreclosed home. The films then cuts to Dennis Nash (Garfield), working a construction site when it gets shut down by lack of funds. Boxed into a corner, with no foreseeable income, Dennis rushes to court, his son in tow, and tried to appeal their home’s foreclosure. Nash is in an ill-fitting, oversized button up, fumbling with papers as he begs the judge to give him more time, but ultimately the court rules in favor of the bank; the eviction is set for the next day.
If you’re looking for an uplifting story with a happy ending, you’ve come to the wrong theatre. 99 Homes starts dark, gets darker, and ends on the lowest note possible. Director Ramin Bahrani brings the 2008 housing crisis to life by giving the faceless banks a face with Richard Carver. Michael Shannon delivers an excellent performance as Carver, with charm and charisma that brings humanity to this very unlikeable villain. At times, you almost feel sorry for poor Richard Carver, the man who has to give people the worst news of their lives. It’s not really his fault after all; if these homeowners hadn’t been so greedy with homes or remodels they couldn’t afford, he wouldn’t be forced to be the bad guy and evict them!
Garfield delivers a solid and sympathetic performance as Nash, bringing a quiet intensity (that eventually boils over in an emotional and explosive scene) to a seemingly “simple” man. Watching him feels as though you’re watching a documentary rather than a scripted and well composed film. His dialogue, with its stammers, pauses, and “Uhhs” and “Umms” flows naturally. His character’s descent into deceit and dirty dealing as Carver’s right hand man is interesting to watch; a good man slowly losing his sense of morality and slivers of his soul as he sells out, abandoning his humble roots for a chance to live like Carver.
All in all, the film is well composed. The characters are well written and well portrayed. The script and story is interesting, even if it is a little slow at times. The pacing works though and the delivery of the film’s peak moment, a tense stand off with a homeowner and a revelation that Richard Carver may not be so innocent in his dealing with the banks, packs a punch that made me jump in my seat. All of this is highlighted by the film’s gritty and rough appearance, that much like Garfield’s performance, feels more documentarian and almost voyeuristic, bringing a sense of truth in the storytelling reflective of something “based on true events” rather than coming off as an overly dramatized portrayal of a politically heavy piece of social commentary.
99 Homes is a heavy drama that makes you root for the underdog and want to stick it to the banks even more than you already do.
4 out of 5 stars
– Taylor Elizabeth