Oh, for an honest day’s work! Director and writer Ramin Bahrani ‘s film “99 Homes” has the audience longing for the plumber, the plasterer and Rosie the riveter to watch and laud. For certainly, Michael Shannon’s one -dimensional portrayal of an immoral Capitalist benefiting by throwing out families in the midst of home foreclosures doesn’t provide more than a devil to hate. In this greed screed gone awry, Shannon becomes a caricature as Blair Carver,the man who carves up lives. Yes, I agree that money, especially easy money, is the root of most evil. But without lust,love and loathing,filthy lucre gets boring,just like this picture.
Blair Carver, realtor, cautions construction worker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) not to get emotional about real estate. “They ( houses) are boxes. What matters is how many boxes you have.” After foreclosing on Nash’s home, Carver offers a Faustian deal to Nash as a “rookie evictor” . House-flipping and fraud work hand in hand. Garfield provides more nuanced acting then Shannon, but it may be the script’s fault. Does Carver see something besides opportunity in Nash? Does he really believe that the pursuit of wealth usurps all other values? Nothing is developed. This is a black and white film that longs for a few shades of gray.
Laura Dern is a fine actor,yet no matter how she explains that she had Dennis at a young age,the mother /son dynamic is not American. She could have played his wife more easily. Never does he question her or do anything, but try to protect her. This is another culture being portrayed. Nice, but foreign. For Mama Nash, greed is not the only game in town. Her grandson, Conner, is to be cared for and protected. Her beautician work somehow does not materialize. She wants to go to Florida to live under the roof of her brother. Again, not very culturally savvy.
The incongruous music, something akin to bush drum beats, irritated me more than quickened the film’s pace. The heavy breathing as despair did the same. Lines like Shannon’s ” You work for me. You’re mine” , “Surly homeowners, you need a gun” ring melodramatically. Themes like “America does not bail out losers: America bails out winners.” deserve more than a twenty -second image of a mason jar with repossessed keys. See this film if you want to see foreclosure sheriffs and stuff dragged out to the front lawn. As Dennis Nash deliberates what to do as the movie closes,I am shaking my head,too. This film could have been another “Civil Action”, but somehow one child smiling in a car window manages to profit neither justice nor moral triumph.