Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Indie Review: 99 Homes (2015)

                            '99 Homes' Makes 'The Big Short' Look Like A Frat Boy Comedy
             This movie is the perfect companion piece to The Big Short because that film was like Foreclosure Sucks: Fun Edition and this one is like Foreclosure Sucks: Serious Edition. But boy, is this one serious!

             99 Homes follows the story of a man named Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) who gets evicted out of his home along with his mother (Laura Dern) and son. While being forced to live into a hotel, he is given the opportunity to work with the realtor that got him evicted named Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). At first, he is asked to just take appliances out of deserted homes. But eventually, he ends up stooping to the level of the system that screwed him over before by evicting other families from their own homes.

            I'll start right off with the screenplay by Ramin Behrani. What Behrani does he takes the subject matter of the 2008 economy collapse and turns it into a story about the survival of the fittest. It depicts how our main hero is like a hunter's game that is on the verge of getting finished off only to be given the opportunity to bite back. He begins to practically feed off his fellow man in order to survive living in the wild jungle.

            Props should also to the cinematography by Bobby Bukowski. Because of how he shoots the film so brightly, it not only contrasts with the dreariness going on in the picture, but it is able to capture the feeling of the setting being like a jungle with shots of the Florida palm trees. The opening uninterrupted shot, which depicts a man's apparent suicide, even captures the tone for the rest of the movie.

           Next is the acting. Andrew Garfield gives perhaps his best performance to date as a father who despises having to play devil's advocate, doing to others what has been done to him, but tries desperately to get him and his family out of that small hotel room. Laura Dern has a smaller role as Nash's mother, but she does make the most of her limited screen time, acting as the moral compass to the main moral compass.

          However, as terrific as those two are, the movie belongs to Michael Shannon as Rick Carver. Carver could've VERY easily been a one-note villain. Somebody who takes absolute glee into what he does. But come to think of it, he might not be much of a villain at all. We don't all agree with his "kill or be killed, screw everyone else" mindset, but we still understand his methods. In a way, he is kind of like Nash. He's simply a man trying to get by in this cruel, inhumane world. In fact, he gives one monologue that really struck me after the film was over:

          Here we kind of see why he is the way he is and gives a speech that says something about life itself. The world doesn't care about whether you stay afloat or drown. It doesn't owe you a thing, so you kind of have to find your way in the Ark or at least build your own raft. While Carver and Nash have to get their hands filthy to do so, the journey to being well off isn't always painted in gold.


        Overall, 99 Homes is a masterful look at the recent economic crisis told in the form of a brutal "survival of the fittest" story under the sunny Florida sun. By the end, it will not only give you a perspective on the economy, but have you wondering: If I were a hunter's game on the brink of death, do I let myself die or do I try and bite back?

Grade: A