99 Homes is not an easy movie to watch. Whether or not you experienced any emotional or financial fallout from the burst of the housing bubble, it’s not pleasant to watch other people be evicted from their houses. Technically, opportunistic real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) would tell you they aren’t their houses; they’re owned by the bank. Further, he is simply acting on their behalf by literally kicking them to the curb.
In the movie, the truth is that Carver is actually acting completely in his own self-interest. I want to give the man credit for turning lemons into lemonade by finding a way to not only survive, but thrive, in an economy collapsing around him. However, the methods he uses are, while perhaps technically within the law (in most cases), morally questionable at best. Through the eagerness of his young protégé, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), we experience how Carver may have begun his journey to the dark side.
It’s a tough pill to swallow in 99 Homes that Nash, someone whom Carver evicts, would later become his right-hand man. But you accept it because it demonstrates how desperate Nash is to survive himself, as well as regain the family house for him, his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern) and his son, Connor (Noah Lomax). He’s more wracked with guilt than we ever see Carver, but at what point will the money begin motivating him and will he look beyond simply maintaining the status quo?
Nash’s eviction scene is long, drawn-out and extremely uncomfortable. You feel like you’ve been through the experience yourself when it’s over. But what’s even more uncomfortable is watching Nash go to other peoples’ homes to evict them. Unlike Carver, he has a conscience, and Garfield does a great job of acting through all the nuances of the situation. It’s not simple for him; he’s being torn apart inside, and it shows with his every movement, expression and word.
What will ultimately happen? Will Nash go completely to the dark side or will he implode first? You kind of wonder if he’s doing it all to get back at Carver and might have some trick up his sleeve to turn the tables on him. But 99 Homes is not of the thriller variety; it’s strictly a drama. Well, that is until the end when it takes a melodramatic turn that forces a quick resolution. This conclusion gives physical substance to the questions the movie has raised up until then.
99 Homes is one of those movies you can’t really say you “liked;” it’s too depressing. However, you absolutely can admire it, and I did admire it. It’s confusing at times. I don’t fully understand what happened during the bubble burst in reality, so I didn’t always follow Carver’s machinations. But it’s compelling and Garfield’s performance is fascinating to watch. I recommend it as a good movie; however, I don’t necessarily recommend you see it if it all sounds too grim for your taste.