October 8, 2015
99 Homes (*** ½) R
Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s new film 99 Homes pulls off an interesting feat in that it takes subject matter that wouldn’t appear to be compelling at first glance, but, nevertheless, serves as the perfect springboard for one of the most satisfying films I’ve seen in awhile. It’s rare that one could a subject as cut and dried as the housing market crash of the late 2000s and craft a film that’s as engrossing and compelling as 99 Homes turns out to be, but that’s exactly what Bahrani has accomplished.
Michael Shannon turns in yet another blistering performance as the film’s villain, real estate predator Rick Carver. Carver has made a ton of coinage in the Orlando, Florida area kicking people out of their homes and reselling the properties at a sizeable markup from the purchase price, a procedure known as house flipping. When Carver happens upon Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a working class Joe and single dad who is the real estate mogul’s latest victim, he somehow feels a compulsion to offer Nash a chance to work for him. Nash, who doesn’t want to disappoint his son or his mother (Laura Dern), decides to give in to Carver’s offer, although on some level it’s clear that he realizes he’s making a deal with the devil. Nash, who is running out of viable options, sees the opportunity as the only reasonable way to get his family out of the motel that they currently reside in and get his family back into their home. Nash comes to realize, of course, that money isn’t everything as the film heads toward its final act.
There’s much to admire about 99 Homes. It’s a suspenseful and engrossing experience but I also appreciated Bahrani’s insistence on not taking sides with the characters in the film. Make no mistake, 99 Homes is a film that explores the many grey areas inherent in its subject matter instead of painting everything in broad strokes of black and white. For most of the film, the audience can just as easily side with the real estate predators in the film as they can with those who are being forcibly evicted from their homes through bad choices they’ve made. It’s only during the last act of the film that Bahrani decides to show us the evil that these house-flipping sharks are capable of accomplishing and asks us to side with those whose lives are being upended. It’s a refreshing approach to the material that I wasn’t quite expecting to see. 99 Homes is playing in Charlotte.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.