99 Homes is an interesting film; it has the appearance of a intricately based drama, but divulges into a morality-based thriller, and plays well into true events without being preachy. There’s enough realism that nearly crosses the line of clashing with the story, but there’s enough emotional empowerment that drives the film throughout its internal melodrama. Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon give incredible performances, and while they play roles that are perusal for the characters, they do well with the material and put emotions and characters behind the faceless numbers of real estate.
Set in 2010, 99 Homes follows the story of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single dad in South Central Florida struggling to find work and sustain his family. His worst nightmare comes true when he’s approached by Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), a real estate agent determined to evict Nash, his mother (Laura Dern), and his son (Noah Lamax) from his property. Out of work and desperate, Nash is left on his own when he gets a request to join Carver in his exploits. But as Carver’s motivations became more realized, and his drastic actions are revealed, Nash is drawn in a conflict in which he must decide to either protect his family’s future or give up his morals.
Director Ramin Bahrani pulls no punches in the brutality of the situation, crafting a smart and confident film that builds off of the premise of evictions but doesn’t pander to a message. The moral drama is the real heart of the story, and while the intelligence of what occurs is both complex and understandable, its the real conflicts within the characters that drive the film. There are some scenes of intense sequences of evictions, and while some of the techniques of handheld camera are distracting, these scenes set of the stakes of the story.
The performances of the film are really the shining point. Andrew Garfield is perfectly cast, combining the likability required for his character with a flexible moral agenda. Garfield nails the conflict of the character, and his scenes of emotion are some of the strongest in the film. However, the film’s award-worthy performance belongs to Michael Shannon. Shannon is magnetic onscreen, giving a gritty, charismatic, and terrifying performance of a man determined to come out on top regardless of the circumstances. The clashes and contradictions of his character are what makes so interesting and three dimensional; the brilliance and brutality of his character make Shannon a contender for Best Supporting Actor.
Though some of the subplots, mainly those involving Laura Dern and Noah Lamaxs’ characters are slightly uninteresting, the film is best when it plays off of the chemistry between Garfield and Shannon. The score and editing is strong for the most part, and while the film is a little to long, it never feels laborious. So may criticizes the ending for being too overblown, but it serves as a reasonable conclusion to the events that occur.
99 Homes is an exciting, intense, and extremely well acted piece of cinema. Though it many not go all the way in award season, it’s an expertly made film that combines realism with entertainment. Grade: B+