Andrew Garfield Says New Movie Helped Heal Family Wounds, Recalls Tearful Five …

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

99 Homes, film review: No home comforts in grim tale of bankruptcy and broken dreams.

Graduating from check-your-phone-and-you’ll-miss-him turns in Groundhog Day and Vanilla Sky to playing the lead villain in 2013’s Man of Steel, Michael Shannon’s luck in Hollywood has changed somewhat.“Don’t get emotional about real estate.” That bit of wisdom — among the mantras shared by a predatory broker named Rick Carver — is both upheld and defied by “99 Homes,” Ramin Bahrani’s stunningly effective melodrama of flipped houses and mortgaged souls.The pain and anger generated by the financial crisis is the basis for “99 Homes,” a film from Ramin Bahrani that turns the aftermath of the housing collapse into a high-stakes thriller.

In Ramin Bahrani’s real-estate thriller 99 Homes, Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, an everyman who is evicted from the home that he shares with his son, Connor (Noah Lomax), and mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), during the mortgage meltdown. This week sees him returning to the indie fold with a role as a ruthless estate agent in 99 Homes and to celebrate, we’ve gone back through his varied career to highlight his finest roles.

While the film hardly endorses Rick’s coldblooded, dog-eat-dog view of the world, it is too cleareyed to oppose his ruthlessness with soft, easy appeals to sentiment. The rise of subprime lending and lax regulation turned homes into boxes that could be packaged into securities that could be bought, sold, margined and speculated against without any regard given to the folks living in them. In this early scene, an Orlando homeowner (Andrew Garfield) and his mother (Laura Dern), receive an unexpected visit from a real estate broker (Michael Shannon) and police officers sent to evict them from their home. The elation springs from the narrative force of the filmmaking, which rises beyond craft into art: a pair of flawlessly frightening performances by Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon; a virtuoso director you may not have heard of, Ramin Bahrani, working from an absolute thumbscrew of a screenplay he wrote with Amir Nadeeri and Bahareh Azimi; and all of it devoted to the story of a decent man who strikes a Faustian bargain during this country’s foreclosure crisis half a decade ago. William Friedkin’s disturbing thriller was curiously overlooked upon release in 2006 despite a career-best performance from Ashley Judd and a substantial role for a relatively unknown Michael Shannon.

The foreclosed properties Rick acquires and resells may be repositories of hopes, dreams and family memories, but they’re also economic units, “boxes” to be emptied out, refilled and written down on a balance sheet. Homeowners were not blameless, because many used their homes as cash machines or became speculators themselves, buying up a number of boxes to rent or flip. Its characters aren’t beleaguered sharecroppers, as in John Steinbeck’s novel, but newly homeless middle-class families, preyed on by banks and estate agents. Here, the actor, who will next appear in Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, tells Entertainment Weekly about his attraction to the role, his personal connection to the material, and working with the great Michael Shannon in advance of the film’s Sept. 25 release. Shannon’s naturalistic turn as Son was a standout in a film full of great performances and this scene of scaled back anger has him deliver a provocative speech at his father’s funeral.

Its eminently decent hero, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father desperate to hold his family together, does some eminently despicable things. You very rarely read anything, let alone a film script, that hits you in a very deep place, [that] you feel in your body and know you’re involved in something that’s universal and deeply important. I could feel it subliminally even though the conversations were happening behind closed doors. “So there was some strange healing that I was being called to do in being a part of this film,” Garfield continued. “And I got a chance to talk to my dad about that specific period of time where I knew what was going on even though they were protecting me and my brother in all ways that they could.” Garfield called his father just before leaving to shoot in New Orleans. “We had like a five-hour [conversation] with tears…He finally was able to reveal to me what that period of time was, what he learned and what he gained from it,” the former Spider-Man star said. “I was finally able to share how tense I was throughout that whole time.” is the first time Garfield, 32, has played a father. “It was scary—really really really scary,” he admitted. “I was really ill-prepared and then I realized, ‘Oh, yes, that’s fatherhood.'”

In something of a breakout role, Shannon took on the troubled yet perceptive character of John Givens in Sam Mendes’s bleak adaptation of Richard Yates’ brutal depiction of suburban unhappiness. Unable to find construction work amid the housing crash, Nash accepts a job offer from Carver and eventually ends up evicting people himself and engaging in foreclosure-related scams. Shannon’s Rick Carver, shows up at the door with two cops for reinforcement, then serves an eviction notice that requires the family to be out in a matter of minutes. This scene, which has him effortlessly dissect the reasoning behind a change of heart from our central couple, before ripping them both apart, explains why he was nominated for an Oscar. Bahrani captures the scene of his dispossession with almost unbearable precision, plunging the viewer into a storm of agonized feeling as Dennis struggles with rage, grief and shame at having been pulled, in front of his neighbors, into the ranks of society’s losers.

In one moving montage, Nash shows up with a sheriff on the doorsteps of various homeowners — many played by non-actors — including an elderly man, a pregnant woman and a former neighbor. It felt like every American, every citizen of the Western world, every citizen of a capitalist society needs to see that scene played out as truthfully as possible because I don’t think it’s possible to experience it without being deeply upset and seeing ourselves in it. In contrast, Rick (played with tiger-shark ferocity by Michael Shannon), could conduct a self-help seminar on how to think, act and dress like a winner. He offers them cash for keys or orders their possessions moved onto their lawns, ignoring their pleas for time or mercy — just as Carver ignored his. “The film doesn’t take sides,” director Ramin Bahrani said in an interview in San Francisco this week. “When Michael says a home is a box, something you can make a profit on, I understand it.

This one is very much about what it seems to be about—real-estate scams, predatory lending practices (though the astute script makes ample allowance for the folly of some borrowers) and, before and after everything else, evictions. With an e-cigarette clenched between his teeth, a pistol strapped to his ankle and a cellphone glued to his ear, Rick may be heartless, but he certainly isn’t dumb. Serial evictions, heartless evictions, sympathetic but still brutal evictions that serve as flashpoints for explosive feelings on both sides of the front door. “99 Homes” is also about what dealing with a devil like Mr.

But it wasn’t until he went down to Florida to research the subject that he realized it would be a thriller. “I liked ‘Wall Street,’ ‘The Hustler,’ ‘On the Waterfront,’ ‘Training Day,’ ‘The Insider’ with Russell Crowe. The bubble has burst, and as homeowners like Dennis find themselves underwater, trapped in treacherous and complicated loans, Rick is on hand to clean up the mess, or at least to profit from it. As a corrupt cop after Joseph Gordon Levitt’s bike messenger, he went up and over the top without checking for a reaction, giving a gloriously manic turn.

I’m just saying we have an opportunity to have a closer look at something that is begging for us to look at it. [Dennis] felt like he could have been me. He shows up on eviction day, backed up by sheriff’s deputies and bank documents, to tell families that they are now trespassing on property they thought was theirs. In Florida he met Lynn Szymoniak, an attorney who uncovered the robosigning scandal while fighting to save her home. “She took me into the foreclosure courts, the rocket dockets, where they decide your case in 60 seconds,” he said.

To see the effects upon an everyman figure was something that was really compelling to me, and it really does feel like everyone’s story in that way. Garfield and his director manage to make him a moral chameleon who takes on the color of evil without losing a tinge of empathy for those he evicts in his turn. In Boardwalk Empire, he was an upstanding and very priggish Federal agent who eventually behaved with as much cunning, corruption and violence as the gangsters he was investigating. It’s a phenomenal performance in a production that falters only at the end, which seems a bit formulaic after the furious swirl that has gone before. The pressure is really, really scary.’ I think every single Western adult [knows] this fear, this terror that it’s all going to fall apart, because somehow we’ve been sold this idea that we need much more than we actually need in order to attain happiness.

Bahrani’s earlier features — “Man Push Cart,” “Chop Shop” and “Goodbye Solo” — were exemplary works of American neo-neorealism, using mostly nonprofessional casts and a stripped-down shooting style to tell stories of economic striving and spiritual struggle. The script Nash follows when evicting homeowners came from real estate agents. “Being with real estate brokers was eye-opening in terms of how much corruption, how many scams there were,” Bahrani said. He is behaving as he does because of what happened to his own father. “America doesn’t bail out the losers” is one of his maxims, a justification for pursuing his own interests even when it means leaving homelessness, poverty and despair in his wake.

The need for money, and for the security, dignity and status it brings, can force terrible choices on people, but hard times and systemic injustice don’t absolve anyone of ethical responsibility. Ramin Bahrani’s strong and surprising drama, set in Iowa’s corn country, stars Dennis Quaid as Henry Whipple, a rapaciously successful farmer and seller of genetically modified seeds. Bahrani went a bit astray with “At Any Price,” an overplotted, overacted movie with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron as a father and son trying to save their family farm.

But when Garfield went to Florida for research, he met a construction worker at a Home Depot who took a job doing evictions after he lost his home and couldn’t eat or sleep. He barely sees his own daughters, has no time for his girlfriend and wears a gun on his ankle to protect him from the rage of the families that he evicts. I think what community to me means right now, as I translate it in my own heart, is knowing that you are the other me and I am the other you and if I hurt you than I’m hurting myself. Its palette of feeling includes a bright streak of anger at the way banks, judges and politicians conspire to bully and bamboozle hard-working people like Dennis, and also at the way the pursuit of wealth has eclipsed all other sources of value in our lives. It’s a chilling portrait of a man who devours what he can, regardless of the consequences, and a prelude, as well as companion piece, to the catastrophic rapacity of “99 Homes.”

Rick doesn’t have that sense of community and he’s sort of deliciously slimy, so it was really interesting to watch Dennis fall into his rabbit hole of greed. Obviously [he’s] a tremendous actor, a great presence and talent, and incredibly serious about his work, which is something that I love being around. But the threat of destruction is pervasive, and everything — the hand-held camerawork, the swift editing, the anxious music by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales — contributes to an overpowering sense of danger. He’s part of the system.” He said the “most important dialogue” is when Nash asks Carver, “Is it worth it?” Carver answers, “As opposed to what?” Bahrani screened the movie for Bay Area tech workers this week. “One of the tech guys said, ‘At first I saw myself hating (Nash), then understanding him.

The name of the film derives from a plot point but also pays homage to economist Joseph Stiglitz, who coined “the 99 percent” in his Vanity Fair article on income inequality. For some reason, going and seeing that movie, it kind of helped me sew up the wounds that had been left by this awful breakup — that’s just one small example. Like Michael Douglas in “Wall Street” or Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” he is the seductive embodiment of capitalist amorality, a handsome devil offering a small amount of cash for your house keys and slightly better terms for your immortal soul. As Dennis’s inner conflict becomes unbearable, you may start to become aware of the traps “99 Homes” has set for itself, and to anticipate endings that seem too bleak, too soothing or too sensational to fulfill the film’s promise. So to feel like I had my heart and soul in it from beginning to end was a really lovely feeling, like I was journeying with it in a more present way throughout, as opposed to coming in and doing my work and then leaving.

The behaviour of all the characters, from the defaulting home owner who makes his house a fortress, to the predatory estate agents who are trying to capitalise on his misfortune, is driven by circumstance. 99 Homes is largely set in suburban Florida. It sucks because it leaves me at the mercy of the right thing to come along, because it costs too much if I don’t care about the thing as deeply as possible.

Even so, the contemporary US that Bahrani portrays is every bit as lawless, corrupt and insecure as the frontier communities terrorised by robber barons in old Westerns. It’s just that feeling of life being a little bit too short to do the thing that you should be doing, that other people are telling you you should be doing, or what the industry tells you you should be doing, or what your peers are telling you you should be doing, what your ego is telling you you should be doing.

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