99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani, 2014)
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is evicted from his home along with his mother (Laura Dern) and son (Noah Lomax), and forced to shack up at a seedy motel. Desperate and unemployed, Nash makes a deal with the devil – here in the form of Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the real estate broker who kicked Nash out of his home – by taking on a job where he evicts other families, as well as agreeing to further shady tasks.
99 Homes successfully encapsulates the grey area of morality. While Nash appears to sell his soul, it’s easy to understand why. He justifies his actions because he’s helping his family, even whilst screwing over the many other families who are in the position he once was. Carver, meanwhile, justifies his flat-out shams by blaming the banks for the housing crisis, all the while making a pretty penny out of other people’s misfortune. He’s most definitely the villain of the piece, but he isn’t responsible for the situation America has found itself in.
Andrew Garfield is convincing as a desperate man, indicating a job well done in the acting stakes considering how far-removed this is from his own Hollywood reality. It is Michael Shannon, however, who dominates as Carver, who will only add further fuel to the collective hatred for real estate agents. There is some small satisfaction to be gained in seeing these types of individuals exposed for what they are on the big screen, though to say the tables have turned would be a stretch, for they generally continue to succeed in an unjust world.
99 Homes is a little difficult to follow in parts – and it’s certainly not as good as Margin Call – but the overall gist is clear. A haunting score adds to the relentless intensity that Ramin Bahrani has created, and though it doesn’t end as depressingly as expected, it’s no happy ending either. Start thinking about the next forecasted economic crisis and your own finances too much and it will lower your mood significantly.