Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Writer/director Ramin Bahrani’s last film At Any Given Price (2012) took a hard look at the family unit, human condition, and the corruption that fell between them. His latest, 99 Homes, continues to explore dramatic and stressful situations, with families at the center. This time everything from the performances to the script are more finely tuned, making for a more memorable experience. Former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield hangs up the costume to focus on projects that can actually sustain his acting career. He and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Freeheld, Take Shelter) don’t disappoint, their opposing performances anchor and infuse the script with riveting portrayals.
Behind on his house payments, Dennis Nash (Garfield) and his son Connor (Noah Lomax), along with Dennis’ mother Lynn (Dern) are evicted from their family home. Realtor Rick Carver (Shannon) represents the bank who now own the Nash house, they are given 2 minutes to pack up personals and vacate the property. Their only option is a cheap motel in Orlando, where Dennis searches for construction based work. Carver offers the young father a job fixing air conditioners, then assisting with evictions, making certain properties look unsellable and eventually Dennis represents Carver Realty, kicking people just like himself out of their homes. He makes a lot of money working for Carver but the questionable methods begin to wear on his self-conscious.
99 Homes is stressful, emotional and effective because the corruption seems so routine and widespread.
Bahrani’s script does an excellent job keeping the audience engaged with Nash’s moral dilemma. The script asks the audience what they might do in the same situation, do we blame this character for taking a job that helps provide for his family? Bahrani’s doesn’t write Dennis as a good or bad guy, he is in a nearly helpless situation in which we empathize. Although some audiences might argue he should have prevented himself from landing in his current situation, his quick temper certainly adds balance to the sympathy we feel for him. 99 Homes is stressful, emotional and effective because the corruption seems so routine and widespread, this situation looks like it could easily happen to anyone failing to feed the sharks that circle the streets of opportunity.
One person’s disadvantage is another’s advantage basically sums up Carver’s business model. Shannon plays this snake of an opportunist like he does everything else, with focused intensity and full force absorption. Shannon has become one of those actors elevating any project bearing his name. His character explains in so many words, how he gets away with taking control of all these foreclosed houses. “Don’t get emotional about real estate,” he warns Dennis. “They’re just boxes”. Bahrani’s has based his story on true events, but the ending is likely to catch audiences off guard. 99 Homes ends up being a bit anticlimactic, as the pressure builds throughout the film without ever getting a real release.
Anxiously suspenseful, Shannon and Garfield anchor the film.