99 Homes Review – Riveting Performances Captures the Emotions of the Foreclosure Crisis

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99 Homes, from Broad Green Pictures, presents a stunning portrayal of contemporary life in post-recession America, where decent people, once solid home owners, are suddenly ambushed by a corrupt judicial system as they struggle to save their dying American dream.

Directed and written by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes stars Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Noah Lomax as the core characters in this powerful and timely emotionally gripping film.

99 Homes opens with a camera pan beginning across in the bathroom where an obvious suicide had occurred, blood splatter on the walls, the gun on the floor, the body slumped over, the camera continues to pan through the house, a retired fireman's helmet, years of memories, pictures of a wife, daughters, a well-kept, clean home.

Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon, unmoved by the sobbing wife, the distraught daughters watching the corpse, their husband and dad, being wheeled to the ambulance waits for a moment before he delivers the second blow of the day.

Sunny Florida, where oranges grow in every yard, Dennis Nash played authentically by Andrew Garfield, is standing in a courtroom facing a judge and in a matter of minutes his family home, where three generations had lived, is gone.

On the ride home from court, he is peppered by questions in machine gun rapid fire by his son, Connor, played by Noah Lomax, who is on some level understanding the severity and gravity of the situation more so than his Dad and grandmother.

Ownership, unbeknownst to Nash who as most honest Americans believe reason, fairness, and mitigating circumstances will persuade a court to allow for more time, is transferred to the bank in a foreclosure hearing over less than $5000.00 in missed payments. 

The next scenes are realistically played out at the kitchen table with Nash starring at the bank notices, letters, attempting to secure an attorney to somehow stop the runaway train and at least buy some time. It is captured extremely well, as he catches his breath on a "promise" of an attorney for assistance who never materializes. Garfield captures the range of emotions from denial, confusion, impossibility, shock and even shame.

Of course, as he explains to his mom, Lynn, played by Laura Dern, what he knew for sure is that he knew nothing for sure. As in most juridical proceedings it happened so quick, and for the expressed purpose of ensuring the confused stay that way, not knowing ones rights are the surest way to lose them and Dennis Nash walked in front an out of control train and it ran him over.

Nothing prepared either of them for the knock on the door the next morning as the hit man for the mortgage company, Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon, accompanied by the Sheriff, shows up and with the authority of the court explains they are no longer the home owners and are, in fact, trespassing and are given three minutes to gather what is important, pictures, medicines, checkbook, and vacate.

By the evening the entire life's possessions are on the front lawn and not knowing what to do next, they end up in an extended stay motel that they find out is full of families, just like them, once solid earning Americans, working for the dream and owing a piece of it, and in three minutes or less, it reverts to the bank.

A handyman, Nash discovers his tools had been stolen by the movers hired to empty his home. So angry, homeless and tired, he ends up at the office of Rick Carver. Calling the man out for stealing the tools they begin to fight. Soon Carver is breaking up the fight and as luck or fortune or circumstances would have it a home that was to be emptied by the crew, the former owner back up the septic system and the entire house was covered in feces.

Which sets up the Second Act. Carver offers Nash a job and soon he is doing incrementally increasing "handyman" jobs each growing in responsibility and pay. Then he begins to deliver the worst news to a series of homeowners. He begins with the "cash for keys" offer which provides homeowners with impending foreclosures a flat fee of $3500.00 for the keys. The messages are met by each homeowner with every range of emotion and actions including threats, impossibility, shock, denial, and violence.

The fact that Nash is finally making decent money is considered "dirty" as it is enforcing the law and putting "innocent" people of their homes. And he is well aware his mother would think the money was tainted and she does which doesn't make sense.

In fact, he knows her so well that he doesn't tell her, where he is working, for whom, what he is doing and she only understands to some level when they go back to their old home, empty now with paint cans, as Carver in a moment of cruelty, kindness or manipulation sells the house back to Nash and he pays him and not the bank.

When money is not an issue, negotiations are easier and now as Nash is earning substantial fees for his services which skirt the law and hadn't yet called for him to break it or evict any person with whom he had a personal relationship.

Act Three changes all that and his integrity is finally put to the test.

99 Homes is emotionally gripping with each foreclosure a new coping mechanism is played out all resulting in an inevitable end. There were so many wrenching moments as it was written and captured so well that each reaction to the eviction was gripping.

Particular scenes an older man, a senior citizen, someone who explained the reverse mortgage plan, ended up like the rest, sitting amidst his possession on the front lawn, it was deeply moving. 99 Homes packs a powerful punch as it hits home the realities of a post-recession economy.

99 Homes is the definitive fictionalized film on the foreclosure crisis. Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Michael Shannon are captivating. The performances, across the board, from the entire supporting cast of "homeowners" were riveting and emotionally raw and real. The film is deeply accurate and attention grabbing.

99 Homes, with each story, puts a face on the foreclosure crisis. A superbly acted, directed and written film.

99 Homes opens in select markets Friday, September 25, 2015. See this film.

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