JDIFF Review – 99 Homes

After the bank forecloses on the home he shares with his mother and young son, Dennis (Andrew Garfield) finds himself living in a motel with his family, and desperate for work. Dennis eventually finds work with Richard Carver (Michael Shannon) the real estate developer who evicted his family from his home.

99 Homes is an examination of the culture of greed and capitalism surrounding real estate in the US and, while it starts strong when focused on being a family drama, it loses its way when trying to become a political and moral thriller.

Andrew Garfield does well as Dennis Nash; his performance feels honest and natural and is confliction over the work he finds himself doing is obvious. Michael Shannon excels as the greedy, unscrupulous and cruel real estate developer and, although she does not have an awful lot to do, Laura Dern is strong as Dennis’ mother Lynn.

The trouble arises with the film’s story; when trying to be a family drama, focused on the fate of the Nash family and the lengths that Dennis has to go to in order to save his family from living in a motel, the film is strong and moving. As soon as Dennis becomes comfortable in his new job, however, and begins rising through the ranks, it is all too clear where this story is going, and what must happen in the end. Ramin Bahrani has based his screenplay in 2010, and while there are plenty of touching and emotional moments as people are forced to leave their homes, this is actually a film about greed and survival of the fittest, at all costs.

As director Ramin Bahrani makes 99 Homes a solid drama, with a strong ethical message at its core. The performances from the actors are strong, but things become muddled and messy in the final act, as Bahrani tries to make the film as much a legal thriller as it is a family drama. That said, the film is well paced and Andrew Garfield ably carries audience sympathy with him as he goes down the rabbit hole of petty theft and fraud.

In all, 99 Homes is an interesting look at life in the US after the financial crash, and is moving in its depictions of families being forced to leave their homes. The film struggles, however, with being anything other than predictable, and from some muddled pacing in the final act.

Rating: 3/5

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