99 Homes Plot Summary:
After getting evicted from his long time home, an unemployed construction worker (Andrew Garfield) goes to work for the shrewd real estate broker (Michael Shannon) who evicted him. Desperate to provide for his son (Noah Lomax) and mother (Laura Dern), Nash struggles with his shady new employer.
One of the first thoughts I had watching 99 Homes was how cathartic Andrew Garfield’s performance felt. He looked so relieved not having to deal with the Spider-Man crap and baggage. It’s almost like he thanked the lord before every take he was in a nice small non studio controlled movie where he was able to act. 99 Homes is one of those films that provides a cleansing pallet for critics after a long season of summer blockbusters. It’s a small scale production about a home ownership crisis that mostly involves tense confrontations, morally questionable acts and a look at human beings when they are most frustrated and vulnerable. The real star of this movie is the screenplay, written by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi. It’s so tight, that any Screenplay instructor would cry at how well it was constructed. I mentioned Andrew Garfield, who is great, but we have to start with one of the best actors working in Hollywood today, Mr. Michael Shannon.
Everybody knows about Michael Shannon at this point. The dude just brings it. Even in a cheesy movie like Premium Rush he was awesome as a sleaze bag villain. This might be his best role yet. Shannon plays Rick Carver, the ultimate real estate broker who evicts you and swallows up properties. This guy is like the bogeyman of Real Estate. He’s got maps and diagrams galore of houses laid out like he was a James Bond villain. He even smokes this weird cigarette all the time that glows blue. Seriously, what the hell is that? The guy is a scum bag, but the way Shannon plays him is so endearing, you can’t help but almost root for him at times. Shannon is simply magnificent. He delivers one particular monologue about the government, bail outs, winners & losers that completely floors you. It’s an Oscar moment. 99 Homes is a reminder of how underrated this guy is.
Shannon certainly gives the best performance, but Garfield is no slouch either. In many ways, he carries the film on his shoulders. Garfield plays Dennis Nash, an honest worker who can’t find work. He’s very likable, which is crucial. You completely understand why he starts doing the things he does with Carver. Most of the important scenes involve people getting evictions, and Nash’s is the first one we witness, so when we see the role reversal take place, it creates a truly layered character. When the movie is focused on just Garfield and Shannon, their relationship fires on all cylinders, filled with resentment, respect, disdain, swindle and even fear. It really is similar to Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in Wall Street. In fact, this is the Wall Street of Real Estate movies.
My only complaint is that the screenplay is almost too good. It’s so efficient that the movie does lack an overall substance. There’s great dialogue and character moments to be sure, but the emotional core between Nash and his family is manufactured and clichéd. Laura Dern (mom) and Noah Lomax (son) are fine, but they serve merely as plot devices.
This probably won’t make my top five of the year, but it’s one of the safest recommendations I could ever give. Tense, great acting, entertaining all the way through and wraps everything up in a nice neat package. And even though the film lacks an overall substance, all the eviction scenes are incredibly powerful, one in particular involving an elderly man. If the film can get more attention, it will be thrown around for a few awards.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.