Movie Review - 99 Homes

This film is about a young person who comes under the tutelage of an older person. It's a kind of mentor relationship where the apprentice, as it were, discovers that his mentor is not the person he thought. The mentor goes too far, crosses a line, or the apprentice realizes that becoming like the mentor is not what he wants or not what will help him without hurting others. At first, it's tolerable because the hurting of others is impersonal. It's against no one that he closely knows or has ever seen before. By the end, it's intolerable because the hurting of others becomes quite personal. It turns to being against people he does know or even with whom he lives. It's a rise and fall of empathy, and then rise again.

Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road and Man of Steel) stars as Richard Carver, a real estate agent in Orlando, Florida, 2010. Yet, he doesn't help to put people into homes. He does the opposite. He evicts people and puts them onto the street. Actually, he would argue that he doesn't evict. The bank does the evicting, or rather the bank forecloses and takes possession. Richard or Rick merely is the bank's representative. Rick shows up at the door with police and blue-collar workers who do the heavy lifting.

Rick has made himself the face of evictions. As such, he's practically the villain. It doesn't help that he has developed such a brutally cold and cynical attitude about it. Even though he isn't really the person ruining people's lives, he's the face of it. Having a job where the perception is so villainous is dramatically interesting.

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network and The Amazing Spider-Man) also stars as Dennis Nash, a construction worker and highly-skilled, home repair man, a general contractor in his own right. Unfortunately, Dennis is deep in the hole with the mortgage payments to his family house. He's trying to support his mom and his son, as a single guy. It's 2010. The country is still in the wake of the 2008 recession, and Dennis is struggling for work.

Writer-director Ramin Bahrani hasn't made many films. He's still young, but most of his movies have been about struggling workers, people strapped for cash, the proletariat, those living in various states of poverty, if not teetering on the brink. This film is one such. It paints a portrait of desperation for a wide variety of families and persons, from immigrants to the elderly, those in fact losing their homes.

This movie plays with the extremes of what people can do and will do when pushed or backed into corners. It shows how a need to hold onto something or maintain a standard of living can go too far and how the temptation to exploit the situation is certainly there.

When thinking about this film, it echoes Antoine Fuqua's Training Day (2001) or more appropriately Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987) with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko and Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox. Shannon is Douglas and Garfield is Sheen in this scenario. The only difference is that Garfield's character, Dennis, doesn't idolize Shannon's character, Rick, as much as Bud Fox idolizes Gordon Gekko. Rick and Dennis come together in the most unlikeliest of ways too.

Bud Fox didn't have a prepubescent son like Dennis does, but Bud Fox did have a father who was a sounding board or a quasi-moral compass. Here, Dennis has his mother, Lynn Nash, played by Laura Dern (Wild and Jurassic Park). She's his sounding board or compass rose. Yet, the real relationship that's crucial beyond Rick and Dennis is that between Dennis and his son, Connor Nash, played by Noah Lomax.

Even though Garfield perhaps looks too young to believably play this role, his rapport or chemistry with Lomax is really great and seeing the two of them together is maybe the most genuine thing in this entire film. It's probably the best father-son dynamic of the year. Granted this was more of a year of parent-daughter dynamics.

The third most important relationship that Dennis has in this film is with Frank Green, played by Tim Guinee (Iron Man and Hell on Wheels). Once Dennis is taken under Rick's wing and starts to become a Rick-clone, Frank becomes Dennis' proxy, a member of the so-called 99-percent.

This movie takes place during the nascency of the now defunct Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, which pushed back against the 1-percent of the American population that was the wealthiest and that 1-percent that oppressed the other 99-percent whom collectively had no where near the wealth that it should.

Frank becomes a bit of a foil to Dennis and it's through Frank that Dennis recognizes how much he's changed and is changing. Dennis begins exploiting innocent or desperate people like Frank for his own gains or sheer survival. As such, this film is probably the best expression of the Occupy Wall Street movement that I can name.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language including some sexual references, and a brief violent image.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 mins.


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