99 Homes

99 Homes photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgIt’s always a treat when a thespian has the opportunity to really act. Andrew Garfield hit the big time with a supporting part in The Social Network back in 2010. The attention he drew got him the lead in The Amazing Spider-Man reboot as well as its sequel two years later. I didn’t care for those movies. They were little more than CGI fests and they did nothing to show off the talent he displayed in his earlier work. Now he’s back to his indie roots with this well made production about the housing market crash of 2008. I suppose the same could also be said of Michael Shannon. He starred as the main villain in 2013’s Man of Steel. The difference is that the Superman picture was sort of an exception to the sheer number of indie films (Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter, Mud) he normally does.

99 Homes is a social issue drama concerning Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) and his family when the bank must foreclose on his home. The blue collar single dad, his young son (Noah Lomax), and his mom (Laura Dern), are suddenly without a place to live. The setting is Orlando in the wake of the 2008 subprime-mortgage crisis. Real estate developer Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) is in charge of the eviction. He takes advantage of these foreclosures by swooping in and buying up these homes at a profit. He is an opportunist who is insensitive to, even critical of, their plight. “Dennis, you borrowed $60,000 and didn’t’t pay it back — ain’t that stealing?” he chides.

Michael Shannon clearly has the juiciest role. As a hissable villan, he gives the individual life, relishing in his personality where compassion is a weakness. His “greed is good” ethos would make him a good buddy of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. “Don’t get emotional about real estate, ” he warns. They’re boxes. Big boxes, small boxes. What matters is how many you’ve got.” Indeed he tosses off words of wisdom that deserve to be oft-quoted lines. He’s the proverbial person you love to hate. But is he truly the villan or is the system itself? The temperament of Andrew Garfield’s Dennis Nash isn’t as extreme, but his construction worker has the most compelling character arc. His sweet, gentle demeanor is engaging for the opposite reason. But his decency has a price. As his desperation increases, he caves to darker impulses to provide for his family.

Together Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield provide a captivating study of personalities that interact over an ethical and moral divide. This harrowing chapter of recent history mines socio-political themes for genuine human drama. Director Ramin Bahrani co-wrote the script with Amir Naderi from a story by Bahareh Azimi. The director rachets up the tension and takes what could have been a dry subject into a powerful narrative. Things get intense and watching people lose their homes can be pretty uncomfortable to watch. There’s a surprising amount of suspense in the simplistic but well acted character examination. Unfortunately the ending lacks the punch of the rest of the film.  While it entertains, it also informs, giving us a window into how reckless monetary policies contributed to the the financial recession of 2007–09. Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon portray the human and often painful side of what happens when the economy fails. 99 Homes is the intimate side to an epic saga.

10-08-15

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11 Responses to “99 Homes”

  1. Oh man, love that ending line. Indeed this is more microcosmic than dramatic but that’s why I liked it. You walk out of this movie and back into the very atmosphere in which 99 Homes takes place. Okay, so things have gotten a bit better in the last several years but not to the point where this economic downturn feels like old news. Such a timely and well-acted movie. Really dug it.

    • So timely. The events it depicts are still happening across the country. Not quite as intesne as it was back in 2008 but still very much a part of American life. Heartbreaking stuff.

  2. abbiosbiston Says:

    I really wanted to see this but it only showed at my local cinema for about 5 minutes.

  3. Wow! Yet again I wrote a lengthy post asking a bit more… erased.

    At any rate, Michael Shannon seems to have a knack for over-acting…. as only a mediocre character actor does (e.g. corrupt cop in Looper and super villain in Man of Steel). I was unclear on whether you felt that the film was a bit of a melodrama… a characature of actual events. Real estate developers and brokers suffered as much as the unfortunate homeowners who took out “jumbo loans,” from banks that failed at doing the job of due diligence. The “greed” started in banking as J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” illustrated with suspense and drama drawn from the actual “holy $&&$” moment. Curious to see the movie and understand how deep it goes or whether the story is a bit thin… dependent on meaningful looks and menacing, but vapid dialogue.

    I look forward to seeing it! Thank you for the entertaining review!

    • I consider Michael Shannon to be extremely talented. I view his performances in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) , Revolutionary Road (2008) Take Shelter (2011) Mud (2012) and this, to be high points in an illustrious career.

      99 Homes is a bit sentimental in that it appeals to the emotions. However the characterizations are quite strong so it far surpasses the trappings of a typical melodrama.

    • Zimmer, I think you’re getting “Looper” mixed up with “Premium Rush”. Shannon wasn’t in “Looper”, at least I don’t think. But he did play a corrupt cop in “Premium Rush” that also starred Joseph Gordon Levitt. But Joseph Gordon Levitt did do a lot of loops on his bike, so I could see why you may think Premium Rush was named Looper. lol.

      Oh yeah, PS: Michael Shannon’s acting skills are impeccable! 🙂 He was especially great in Revolutionary Road and Take Shelter. He would have been better in Man of Steel if the script was better; there really was not much meat on that bone for Shannon to sink his teeth into. He did about as well as you could; a character that big should have been more developed and written better. I think that was more on the screenwriter than Shannon. Hopefully he will have a performance in the near future that you like. 🙂

  4. I haven’t seen Andrew Garfield in much aside from Social Network and The Amazing Spider-Man, but I did like him in both. I love Michael Shannon. He’s a fantastic actor and I’m not surprised to hear that he thrives in this role. I can totally picture him spouting Gordon Gecko-esque lines. Seems like there are some interesting socio-political themes that both relevant and relatable. It’s great they can create suspense with something that could be a dry topic. I am a bit disappointed to hear that the film’s ending lacks punch though, which is a criticism I’ve heard from others, but it sounds like I should still check it out.

  5. This was very good. Nice change for Andrew Garfield. I understood why his character did what he did. However, I wish he would have just been open with his mother. I thought Michael Shannon was great. I didn’t think he was over acting. I liked the job he did. 3 1/2 stars

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