Release Date: September 25, 2015
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi, Bahareh Azimi
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Clancy Brown, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee, Nicole Barre, Yvonne Landry, Cullen Moss, Noah Lomax, J.D. Evermore, Jordyn McDempsey, Deneen Tyler, Judd Lormand, Ann Mahoney, Donna Duplantier, Wayne Pere, John L. Armijo, Jayson Warner Smith, Cynthia Santiago, Juan Gaspard
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes
Production Company: Noruz Films, Broad Green Pictures, Madman Entertainment, VVS Films
If you pointed a gun to my head and said, “Tell me who director Ramin Bahrani is or I’ll pull the trigger!” I simply wouldn’t be here anymore. I’m glad that I know who he is now, for his name is the one to remember—a man who gave an experience I’ve never had before. After making its screening round(s) at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, I heard rumblings of the unique nature of 99 Homes. It’s a fascinating film that sheds light on homeownership in America, and explores the question—if hard work really pays off. The movie’s sad, exciting, and takes you on an emotional ride. I was shocked by the amount of greed flowing through the veins of some characters. The story was almost purely evil and the characters delivered great performances to lead the way. The movie will be on my mind for a long time, which is a testament for how impactful the overarching story was.
I walked into this film expecting it to be good. As each day got closer to the screening time, my anticipation grew by leaps and bounds. Not only were my expectations met, but the film also slightly exceeded them. The performances were great; however, this is not the most impressive part. It was the feeling I derived from the whole experience: the ideas the movie left behind in my head. Apart from directing, Bahrani wrote its script as well, and I wonder what motivated him to do so. He took the pain-staking nightmares of real life situations and crafted them into a brilliant reenactment on screen. In the film, when a family, big or small, lost its home, it felt like a month was being subtracted from my own life, from just witnessing their struggles. The family members were actors in the film of course, but they sold the story as if it really happened to them. This did, however, happen to countless people in real life, which made the film hit home that much harder.
How did the narrative get to this point? Who are the ones responsible for ruining countless lives? It all comes down to the hardworking man Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) and the devil himself Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Andrew’s journey was an interesting one. His character represented a man who wants to do the right thing, but sometimes may get lost in this righteous path. Rick is literally like the devil. He doesn’t care who’s in his way, he doesn’t care whom he hurts; he just wants the money and will acquire it by lying, cheating, and stealing. I liked the contrast between these two characters, for they’re the polar opposites of each other. Dennis is young, hungry, and just wants to provide for his family, while Carver takes full advantage of people and situations for his own personal gain. How many freaking houses does this guy need? There’s a hole in his life, and he’s trying to fill it. His demeanor is cold, calculating, and Shannon did justice to this character. It was crazy how he manipulated poor Dennis to turn into one of his demons in the real estate business.
As men and women lose their homes, the cinematic representation of such scenes helped sell their breakdown. The director was able to make the audience step into the character’s shoes, which gave rise to an uncomfortable feeling. He had long, intense shots that never stopped creating tension; in addition, the soundtrack/score took the horror of the characters to the next level. Each time this was done, I found myself at the edge of my seat. I loved his style of filmmaking, and it stood out on its own. My only complaint about the film is that it did seem a little lengthy. We connected with the characters, joined them on their journey, and knew where they wanted to go, but somewhere towards the end of the second act, things started to get repetitive. This repetition lasted for only about ten minutes, but my patience started to fade away.
A film can be a lesson or a form of entertainment. This one is both, hence the reason you need to see it. It’s the type of film that ponders the mind days after you see it. Referring to real life, the film created a character like those in the world who are completely selfish and show no remorse, but only care for themselves. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with a type of character that is so bitter—bitterness that shook me to my core. It stood out and is one of the very reasons I recommend you to see as soon as possible. It’s nearly perfect, besides the slow pacing towards the end, but overall it is an amazing film that encourages me to look forward to the director’s next project.