99 Homes 2015
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Also directed: Man Push Cart
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
First and foremost, the performances by the lead actors were flawless. Michael Shannon, playing a shady real estate agent with a Southern accent, brings surprises and new layers to the character in every scene. Andrew Garfield, playing a character seemingly out of his element, comes with raw emotion in every moment (as usual). Shannon plays Rick Carver, the real estate agent who evicts Dennis (Garfield) in an early scene. Rick Carver is a fascinating character, the villain of all real villains – someone who only sees people for how they can benefit him. When he evicts Dennis, he knows this man will do anything he can to get his home back. He has money and power – he can and will get anything he wants because of the people he knows and money in the bank. Rick lives in excess, smiling too much, gathering attractive and sustenance-less women, “Winning” in every way down to his mansion with a pool.
You watch Dennis, a simple man who makes his money in physical labor and carpentry, lose everything and grapple to get his life back on track – to get his family’s life back on track. I haven’t watched a film in a long time that shows so authentically the everyday battle we all fight between what is right and what pays the bills.
There were many unanswered questions in this film, which likely is why I enjoyed it so much. Films like this are like a great book – you create the back story. Dennis has a son, Connor, well-played by child actor, Noah Lomax. Dennis’ mother (Laura Dern) helps take care of Connor like a mother. I wanted to know what happened between Dennis and Connor’s mother, but the fact that I didn’t intrigued me. The way Dennis acts out in desperation seems so clearly representative of his pain and loss in that relationship. It’s refreshing to see a film that focuses on the relationship and love between a mother and a son rather than the typical romantic love interest. Refreshing not only because it’s different, but because you catch so many more nuances of the characters. Dennis and his mother, Lynn, are both doing what’s best for each other, no judgment and no intention to ever be apart. In romantic relationships, you’re always dealing with the fact someone can leave, can give up.
So the characters are spot on and then there’s this brilliant plot line, this authentic everyday experience of debt in America – loans, credit cards, student debt, house payments. To me, the film thematically makes a statement – people should not be put in financial situations where they are forced to screw others over, to take advantage, to do wrong, in order to make ends meet. Yet, our capitalist society continuously creates an environment where we have no choice. You can either take the opportunities given to you, hideous or not – or you can fall on the way side of poverty where there’s no help, no support, no brighter day.
SHOUT OUT TO BERNIE!
Michael Shannon says it best, “America doesn’t bail out the losers. America was built by bailing out winners… by rigging a nation, of the winners, by the winners, for the winners.”
When it comes down to it, the film had a great ending. Things were made right as you always hope they will be in the end of a dramatic film. When a film can do it in a climactic, true way, you feel that the pains of the story have closure. Perhaps, we all can learn to do the right thing rather than the wrong.