“99 Homes” is a close-up, in-your-face view of the quasi-dictatorship that occurs when the ideals of capitalism are horribly misused. The first few minutes of the film conjure up images of Nazi soldiers invading a Jewish home. As unbelievable as it is that human beings could do this to each other, it happens.
“99 Homes” is not a slick action thriller or a heralded psychological drama with mega-stars. Yet its impact has you waking up at night with the troubling vision of yourself being placed in the same incomprehensible circumstances. As in films such as Paul Weitz’s “Grandma,” restrictions of a low budget required an intimate style for “99 Homes,” which works well for the story.
Andrew Garfield turns in his best performance to date. He is superbly believable as the young carpenter/contractor whose whole life is turned upside-down by the real estate bust of 2008. Michael Shannon shines as the real estate broker driven by a lust for ever more profit, as he takes advantage of unfortunate victims of unscrupulous bank loans amidst the economic downturn. Laura Dern is excellent as the carpenter’s mother. Also outstanding is Tim Guinee as one of the homeowners.
Rahmin Bahrani has forged a passion project with “99 Homes.” Bahrani’s parents were Iranian immigrants to the U.S. That fact probably helps him step outside his own American society to provide us with a searing and honest vision. He is writer, director and editor and he did extensive research in Florida prior to filming. Many of the characters who appear in the story are real people playing themselves. The story flows, we vividly see emotions at the right points, and the tension builds consistently throughout the film. In 2009, Roger Ebert declared Bahrani “the new great American director.” Luckily, this did not go to Bahrani’s head. He’s has made an impactful and thought-provoking film with “99 Homes.”
This film doesn’t simply display how those who are power-hungry take advantage of the disenfranchised and ruin their lives. It looks at the forces behind what made these tyrants who they are. Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski captures the faces of both the characters and their threatened homes. Production designer Alex DiGerlando has staged the homes skillfully to reflect the people who live in them.
This is a “sleeper film” originally released in August 2014. Since then it has played film festivals throughout the world, including Venice, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance, and has won five awards. Now it’s being re-released in the U.S. with nationwide openings slated for Oct. 9. It should get a lot more attention today as an important commentary on our society. There are many landowners who care about their tenants’ lives and the quality of their holdings. For some moguls, however, real estate becomes a game with an addictive quality like gambling. When you own land that other people live on, it’s too easy to revert to a Middle Ages mentality of lord and serf. “99 Homes” will probably be shown in film classes and history classes in future years.
Rated R. 112 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at email@example.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.