Film Review – 99 Homes
99 Homes deals with the fallout of the home mortgage crisis that resulted in people losing their homes because they could not afford their ballooning payments. Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) could no longer afford to pay his mortgage. His family home that he shared with his mom, Lynn (Laura Dern), and son, Connor (Noah Lomax), became bank property and they were all evicted. Swooping in to take advantage of easy pickings, realtor Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) takes care of many of these evictions for the bank. What results from this traumatic experience is Dennis taking a job from Rick, the bad guy. Initially, he is doing construction work, and then he works his way up to being a part of Rick’s shady dealings and his evictions.
99 Homes is a difficult film to review. It is very much a subjective film and a viewer’s reaction to what happens will depend on their own personal views and experiences of the central events. If you were kicked out of your house for defaulting on a loan or forcibly evicted, you will have a more visceral reaction to Rick Carver and empathizing with Dennis and his family. I have not had those experiences, so I found myself feeling for the evicted families but only to a point. Director/screenwriter Ramin Bahrani and screenwriters Amir Naderi and Bahareh Azimi take a risk that the viewers will identify with the less than fortunate families.
Michael Shannon is one of actors out there that can transform himself easily from one role to another without the help of makeup and wardrobe. He plays two very different roles in Freeheld and 99 Homes. In this one, he is pretty despicable with a self-assurance that rivals Donald Trump. He is pretty easy to dislike, but is also cunning and smooth. His true character is shown within the first couple of minutes of the film as he is seen in the aftermath of a suicide after he came to evict a family. He seemingly lets it roll off his back and moves on with his job.
Andrew Garfield steps away from the superhero flicks and English dramas to one of playing the common American man struggling to help his family survive. He conveys the emotion of being a failing breadwinner, doubly so since he has to provide for his son and mother. He struggles with working for Rick Carver, being okay with it at first because they are only scamming the government. He begins to regret his decision when he begins to do evictions himself. It is the struggle between good and bad, rich versus poor, and what you would be willing to do to get ahead in life. Garfield easily portrays that struggle on his face in the last half of the film. He begins to hate himself, but feels like it is okay as long as he is getting his family ahead.
One character who really did nothing for me is Laura Dern’s Lynn. Her character is the happy-go-lucky type who believes that everything will work itself out in her family’s favor. Her ignorance of the situation became frustrating to me every time she came onscreen. Lynn does not enamor herself with the audience at all.
Because of the subject matter, 99 Homes will not evoke the same reaction from every moviegoer. It is a risky film because of this. Not everyone will identify with evicted families or Dennis Nash, but I think that will everyone will come away despising Rick Carver. While I commend the director and screenwriters for taking on a subject so touchy that only happened a few years ago, it may struggle to find its audience.