FlixChatter Review: 99 Homes (2015)

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Right from the moment this film was announced, I was immediately hooked by the timely premise and the cast. Set in Orlando, Florida and loosely based on a real-life events, Andrew Garfield plays a twenty-something single dad Dennis Nash who’s been struggling to find decent work as a construction worker. His family gets evicted from his family home where he’s lived since he was a kid, where he lives with his young son and hairstylist mom. Right away I sympathize with Nash as he just can’t seem to catch a break no matter how hard he tries.

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On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got a shrewd, wealthy real estate broker Rick Carver, played with steely gaze and gravitas by Michael Shannon. The actor is a towering figure already at 6’3″ but there’s something inherently ominous about him that makes him so perfect for this role. It’s easy to think of Carver as nothing but a greedy bastard who’s all about making money off of other people’s misery. I mean, when he drives around the block of certain neighborhoods in his fancy car, all he sees is what profit he could make from these homes. Yet as the film progress, we see that he’s not a one-dimensional villain and there is a reason behind his madness.

Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani tackled the subject of the housing crisis with such astute and empathetic eye. The way he filmed the eviction scene is truly heartbreaking and the actors portray the grief and outrage convincingly. I read that Bahrani apparently used some non-actors playing people being evicted from their homes, but he didn’t tell the lead actors in order to get an authentic response from those scenes.

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The film is tense and suspenseful despite not having much action going on. I felt that under a lesser director, they’d probably sensationalize this story with unnecessary shoot-outs or sex scenes to drive the point across. But thankfully Bahrani chose subtlety and infuse the film with nervous energy that keeps building until a boiling point in a riveting finale. He’s definitely a director to watch and no wonder Roger Ebert called him ‘the new great American director’ in this piece from 2009. “His films pay great attention to ordinary lives that are not so ordinary at all,” the article says, and indeed he accomplished that in 99 Homes. I think being the son of Iranian immigrants gave him a unique perspective on American culture and events that shape Americans.

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The strength of the film also lie in the two leads Shannon and Garfield. It’s interesting that both have just recently done a superhero movie(s), Man of Steel and Spider-Man, respectively. But you won’t even associate either of them with those roles, which is a testament to their fantastic performance and versatility. Garfield captured the anguish of his character perfectly, and he makes for a convincing young dad. There are some emotional scenes between him and his son (Noah Lomax, who bears a striking resemblance to Garfield), as well as his mom (the always watchable Laura Dern). He has a great rapport with Shannon and they play each other off so well. I have to mention Tim Guinee as well who has a small but memorable supporting role as a friend of Nash who’s driven to extremes by circumstances.

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This film certainly doesn’t paint the real estate system in a flattering light, but yet somehow Bahrani manage to present the story as it is. It’s not a preachy piece that push a certain agenda. It’s more about two characters from two opposite real estate spectrum, and how their lives end up affecting each other in ways they’d never imagine.

Like any formidable house, 99 Homes is built on a strong foundation of a sharp script and held up by intuitive direction and powerful performances. A timely drama that will linger long after the closing credits. I can’t recommend this one enough. I definitely look forward to more films by Ramin Bahrani and more intriguing roles for both Garfield and Shannon.

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Have you seen 99 Homes? Well, what did you think?

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38 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: 99 Homes (2015)

  1. I’ve seen 3 of the 5 films that Ramin Bahrani did and he’s definitely an interesting filmmaker as this one and Goodbye Solo plus a short film are the ones that I need to see.

    1. It’s excellent Ted! It doesn’t have much action in the sense of a shootout or car chases but it’s pretty suspenseful as you just don’t know what’s gonna happen next. My gosh Michael Shannon is such a superb actor.

  2. Despite the lame ending, the movie’s very gripping and, well, I hate to say it, entertaining to watch. No matter how disturbing it may sometimes get. Nice review Ruth.

    1. Hi Dan! Hmmm, I don’t think the ending is lame at all. I thought that there had been hints that Tim Guinee’s character would reach its boiling point and it made for an intriguing dramatic moment. I love that scene when Guinee’s son stopped and looked at Garfield through the cop car window, no words necessary to convey the sentiment of that moment.

    1. The script is great but the acting is also superb. Not sure if you are familiar w/ these two actors but man were they good! Michael Shannon especially, now he’s a guy who’d be great in a neo-noir, he kind of has that James Cagney vibe about him, effortlessly intimidating.

  3. Brittani

    I liked this one too, though I wasn’t crazy about the ending, personally. I love Shannon and Garfield and will watch the former in just about anything.

    1. Hi Brittani, I’m slightly baffled that some people didn’t like the ending. I thought it was nicely done and emotionally-powerful, especially that very last moment between the young boy from his friend’s family and Garfield’s character. But yeah, Shannon is absolutely excellent, certainly one the best actors of this generation, yet he’s not getting as much attention as say, Fassbender.

    1. Hi Keith! It is REALLY, REALLY good! I saw this quite a while ago but still reeling from some of the scenes. Hollywood needs more astute filmmakers like Bahrani who prefers subtlety to sensationalism. If someone like Michael Bay would direct this, surely there’ll be more action and sex scenes to portray Shannon’s character which would just ruin the film IMHO. I definitely will see this one again, I hope you see this soon!

  4. Great write-up Ruth. Heard many good things about this, not least its two central performances, but haven’t managed to see it yet. I like your point about Garfield and Shannon not being weighed down by their past superhero roles, which I totally agree with!

    1. Hey thanks Adam! I think this one didn’t get a decent theatrical release but be sure to rent it when it’s available. It’s REALLY good, I certainly don’t mind seeing it again. Both Garfield and Shannon are terrific here, nice to see them getting some meaty roles deserving of their chops.

    1. Hi there Zoë, long time no see [hey that rhymes] 😀 It’s a great film girl, I hope you check it out soon. I like the cast too and they did not disappoint.

      1. xD That it does!

        I am slowly but surely crawling out of the woodwork here, I will hopefully have the time to keep up with all blogs again, so hoping for the best! 🙂

        1. Awesome! I’m actually slowing down quite a bit on the blogging front, as I’m working on my script. But I’ll definitely saunter over to yours and catch up, girl!

    1. I know! It’s such a bummer when worthy indie films like this don’t get a decent release. I was lucky to see it at an advanced screening. Well, hope it’s available on VOD soon Abbi.

  5. Good timing, this just came out today down under! Sounds like one to catch for sure, I have never heard of the director either so hopefully this will be something new. Great write-up Ruth! Great to see Shannon in something, I have always liked him as an actor

    1. Hey Jordan! It’s really worth your time, hope you see it on the big screen. I wish films like this get a bigger release as it’s such a good quality film and so well-acted. Yes Shannon is fantastic as always, but especially here.

  6. Hey Ruth! Anything with Shannon always peaks my interest. I heard about this a little while ago and I have to say it sounds very good. All the more after your positive review.

    1. Hi there Mark, glad to see you stop by! Yes Shannon is an excellent actor and this is a worthy role for him. Hope you get to see this soon, my friend.

  7. Tom

    Yes yes yes! Fantastic review Ruth. I really could have upped my score for this, somehow a 7/8 doesn’t do this realistic drama justice. I like how you also mentioned how well Garfield and Shannon have put their superhero roles behind them for these roles. Incredible transformations for both. More people need to see this as it so effectively inspires outrage without being cloying or manipulative

    1. Hello Tom! Oh I think 7/8 is still a very high score, I mean it’s darn near perfect right? I think Bahrani has an astute eye for storytelling, it’s riveting without being overly-dramatic, which is tough to do!

    1. Hello Alex! Glad to hear you loved this too. This will end up in my top 10 for sure, I wish more people had seen it, it flew so much under the radar. Bahrani is a filmmaker to watch, the way he handled this material is so interesting and he’s not overdoing things to get the point across. Plus Shannon is just so freakin’ watchable, love that guy!

  8. Oh, I can’t wait to see this one! Garfield and Shannon look terrific, indeed. Just noticed it’s out on DVD in early February, so I’ll get to see it before I vote on the Spirit Awards (since Shannon is nominated). 🙂

    1. Hi Josh! Oh you must check it out asap when it’s out on VOD. It’s too bad this film flew so under the radar considering the terrific performances. Man Shannon is excellent here, it’s quite an unlikely pairing of him & Garfield but it worked!

  9. Pingback: 2015 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year |

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