Sunday, July 23, 2017
Directed and edited by Ramin Bahrani and screenplay by Bahrani and Amir Naderi from a story by Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, 99 Homes is the story of a young man who joins forces with the man who evicted him from his house by evicting other people from their houses so he, his mother, and son a chance to find a home again. The film follows the real-life situations of people losing their homes during periods of recession where a young man succumbs to greed in his desperation to survive. Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, and Laura Dern. 99 Homes is an eerie yet harrowing film from Ramin Bahrani.
The film follows the life of a young man who had just lost another job as he is trying to save his home until he becomes evicted forcing him, his mother, and his son to live at a motel where he would later work with the man who evicted him. It’s a film that explores a man’s desperate need to survive as he is trying to do what is right for his mother and son. Yet, it would cause some moral implications as he would work with this real estate operator who makes a business in evicting people from their homes and then sell it off for more money. The film’s screenplay by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi doesn’t just explore this growing world in which people don’t just lose their homes to the banks due to troubling economic circumstances but also what happens to those homes as a man who would lose his family home would take part in something that is considered greedy and immoral. The character of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is someone who’s worked in construction and can do repairs as he is struggling to find work while his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) works as a hairdresser as they can barely get by.
The loss of their home is humiliating as Dennis’ son Connor (Noah Lomax) is forced to witness everything as the hotel they temporarily live at is filled with people who had also lost their homes. When Dennis tries to find his tools where he believes had been stolen and confronts the man who he thinks is the thief. He gets the attention of the real estate operator Rick Carter (Michael Shannon) who likes Dennis’ determination as he gets him to do some work where Dennis learns more about what Carter does. Dennis would do the things that Carter does in evicting people and getting people money to sell their homes as he would struggle with what he’s doing. Yet, the money he would make gives him the chance to have his home back as he doesn’t tell his mother nor his son what he really does. The film’s script does have a structure as it play into Dennis’ need to make money as the third act would reveal the implication of his actions but also what gets lost in the things he does.
Bahrani’s direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way he explores this divide in America between social classes where the rich is living without any kind of problems while the poor and middle class struggle to get by as some no longer have homes. While it is set in Orlando, Florida where there are some wide establish shots of the city. It is shot mainly on location in New Orleans to play into the world of suburbia and urban areas where Dennis and his family are forced to live in as well as the houses that Carter is trying to sell as he would later find himself competing with another real estate company during its third act. Much of Bahrani’s direction throughout the film has him emphasizing on more intimate shots with medium shots and close-ups as well as use hand-held cameras to get a sense of realism throughout the film.
Also serving as the film’s editor, Bahrani would play into the drama as he goes for a straightforward approach to the editing as it helps build up the drama and some of the moments of suspense. Even in moments that are simple as it play into why Carter is doing what he does which show some very cynical ideas about the ways of the world and why those who work hard for what they don’t often don’t get what they want. There are some truths to what Carter is saying but what he puts Dennis into showcases that air of immorality and guilt that Dennis would deal with in the third act where he has a dramatic encounter with someone whose house he evicted. Even as it play into events that are quite chilling as well as what some will do to keep their house in every legal way only to be hit with something that is unexpected. Especially as Dennis is forced to see things up close and deal with the consequences of not just his actions but the deal he made to get back his home. Overall, Bahrani creates a riveting yet chilling film about a young man taking a job in helping a man evict people from their homes.
Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski does brilliant work with the film’s rich and colorful cinematography to capture many of the daytime exteriors along with some scenes at night to make it look like a Floridian summer of sorts. Production designer Alex Digerlando, with set decorator Monique Champagne and art director Christina Eunji Kim, does excellent work with the look of Dennis’ family home and the cramped look of the motel room he, his mother, and son are staying in as well as the more spacious and posh home of Carter. Costume designer Meghan Kasperlik does nice work with the clothes as it is mostly casual and ragged with a cleaner and somewhat posh look for Carter and later Dennis.
Sound editor Odin Benitez does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the locations including a party scenes and things heard outside of Dennis’ motel room. The film’s music by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales is fantastic as it’s mostly an ambient-based score filled with soothing synthesizers and electronic textures while music supervisor Michael Hill provides a soundtrack that is mostly low-key filled with hip-hop, rock, and pop as well as a classical piece from Richard Wagner.
The casting by Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick is great as it feature some notable small roles from Nadiyah Skyy as Carter’s mistress, Nicole Barre as Carter’s wife, Javier Molina as a friend of Dennis who helps him uninstall air condition machines and pool pumps, Cynthia Santiago as the wife of a man who is trying to save their home, and Clancy Brown as a rich businessman that Carter is trying to make a deal with. Tim Guinee is terrific as a homeowner in Frank Greene who is trying to save his home every legal way as he knows Dennis because his son meets Connor early in the film as he is also caught stealing water and electricity from a home owned by Carter. Noah Lomax is fantastic as Dennis’ son Connor as a young kid dealing with the new situation he’s in as he’s hoping to go back home while being unaware of what his father is really doing.
Laura Dern is excellent as Dennis’ mother Lynn as a hairdresser who is kept in the dark about what her son is doing as she is aware of the reality of what is happening but has a harder time learning the truth about what Dennis is doing. Andrew Garfield is amazing as Dennis Nash as an unemployed single father who is trying to make money and do anything to get his house back only to put himself into a world of greed and guilt as Garfield displays that anguish and determination of a man trying to survive. Finally, there’s Michal Shannon in a brilliant performance as Rick Carter as a real estate operator that is quite shady but also determined to make money and bring Dennis into the fold as there’s a sense of charm in Shannon’s performance but also a role that is quite cunning that doesn’t make him into someone that is totally evil.
99 Homes is a phenomenal film from Ramin Bahrani that features incredible performances from Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and Laura Dern. Along with its rapturous script, realistic locations, and a themes of greed, loss, and survival, it’s a film that definitely has a lot to say while showing a dark reality of America as its people lose their homes all because of a missed payment with no chance of getting it back. In the end, 99 Homes is a sensational film from Ramin Bahrani.
Ramin Bahrani Films: Man Push Cart - Chop Shop - Goodbye Solo - Plastic Bag - At Any Price - (Fahrenheit 451 (2018 film)) - The Auteurs #55: Ramin Bahrani
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