0416 | 99 Homes

Sadly this film by Ramin Bahrani received a limited release at the box office, despite plenty of very good reviews, though I suspect it’ll find a wider audience once it is available to watch at home. It’s powered by two very good lead performances: Michael Shannon plays a hardened, greedy real estate operator named Rick Carver, a kind of Gordon Gekko for the foreclosure generation who exhibits no sympathy for the Florida families that he evicts after they default on mortgage payments; opposite him is Andrew Garfield as Dennis Nash, an unemployed contractor who is first turfed out of his own home by Carver before later taking a job opportunity with the same man’s firm. Under Carver’s tutelage Nash quickly progresses from handyman to right-hand-man, and is informed of the steps he must take if he is to emulate the boss and become a financial success. This involves forging legal documents and forcing other people out of their homes, among other activities; this way lies the American Dream, represented here in the form of condos and large mansions that can be snapped up cheaply and sold on for big profits.

99 Homes still feels timely and relevant, even though the worst period in terms of people defaulting on their loans during the sub-prime mortgage crisis was around five or six years ago. We repeatedly see Carver evicting families and homeowners of various ages, aided by police officers (in case things get a little shooty) and a team of workmen who wait in the background like a pack of vultures. People are unceremoniously dumped onto the pavement, having been given two minutes in order to collect key possessions, and are told to find accommodation elsewhere. All the while the impassive, repulsive Carver stands watch, barely able to hide his contempt for the defaulters and running through a number of well-rehearsed lines while dollar signs flash in his eyes. In courtroom scenes we see judges making their way through a backlog of hearings, with homeowners given as little as one minute of the court’s time in which they are able to state their cases. Single father Nash is one of them, unsuccessfully pleading for a stay of grace in the family home with his son Connor (Noah Lomax) in tow. It’s extremely depressing to watch, and highly emotive material.

Along with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and son, Nash is forced to take up temporary accommodation in a cramped and noisy motel. Carver shows him a way out, but in order to make enough money to find a permanent home for his family Garfield’s character must begin evicting people himself, despite knowing exactly how it feels to be made homeless. This drives the narrative for a considerable portion of the film’s 110-minute running time: will Nash become the same kind of man as his real estate guru, or will the experience of being made homeless allow him to empathise with people in similar situations and retain a moral compass? I won’t give away the answer; suffice it to say Bahrani, who co-wrote with Iranian director Amir Naderi, provides a damning assessment of those who exploit the misfortune of others for their own good or who are corrupt in some way or other, while also highlighting the many moral and legal grey areas that can be found within modern property law. I hope more people see this drama, particularly as the acting is of a high standard.

Directed by: Ramin Bahrani.
Written by: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Noah Lomax.
Cinematography: Bobby Bukowski.
Editing: Ramin Bahrani.
 Antony Partos, Matteo Zingales.
Running Time:
110 minutes.

Comments 15

    • Stu December 1, 2015

      He’s really good, consistently. I’m still watching Boardwalk Empire and he’s such a monster in it, it’s pretty hilarious. I need to watch stuff like Bug and Take Shelter…those are on my list. This is well worth a go mate, unusual subject matter and Garfield is pretty good too. And I’ll watch Laura Dern in pretty much anything.

      • Mark Walker December 1, 2015

        As good as Shannon is in Boardwalk, I’m struggling a bit with the pace of that show. It’s good but not Sopranos good (which I was expecting). I’m currently at the end of season 2 and working my way slowly through it.

        As for Bug and Take Shelter, they’re great films, man. I went on a Shannon streak a couple of years ago and those were two of the best I came across.

        • Stu December 2, 2015

          That sounds familiar…I’ve been watching season 3 on-off for about 4 or 5 months now. I enjoy it but have never felt the need to binge on it. Shannon’s character’s arc seems to be getting more ridiculous as the seasons go on, but he’s grimacing through it all manfully!

        • Stu December 2, 2015

          Yeah, although I love watching Stephen Graham as Capone. The programme crackles when he appears.

        • Mark Walker December 2, 2015

          I’m always a fan of Graham. Great actor. I’d like to see him in more stuff, though. I haven’t seen him in anything other than This is England recently.

  1. Tom December 2, 2015

    Agreed good sir. 99 Homes has been woefully under-distributed, I was lucky my area received it. And truth be told I went on the fact that it paired these two actors together and less so b/c of the material. Turns out I left being more impressed by the way the latter was handled, with the performances sliding in second. (A close second, mind you.) Ironic that so many people are in dire straits still after the housing market fiasco and this film is so, so obscure.

    • Stu December 2, 2015

      Yeah I feel the same way. On paper it doesn’t look like the most thrilling of topics for a drama, but Bahrani has written and made an excellent one nonetheless. One of the year’s under-appreciated films.

      • Tom December 2, 2015

        For definites. Such a good flick. Probably will crack my Top 10 for the year. Am actually starting to put that post together now, and I have it on there right now. I have yet to see Brooklyn and Trumbo, though. And a few others, but I have a feeling it will stick.

        • Stu December 2, 2015

          It’s that time of year! I’m trying to catch up on some but have just started a new job, so that’s getting in the way!

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