Review: ’99 Homes’ leaves the burner on

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon leave superheroes behind in ’99 Homes’.

Backstage at The Late Late Show, where he just shook out his mane of hair to James Corden’s delight and watched Bradley Cooper shimmy, the former Spider-Man swapped his tailored suit for a nondescript T-shirt and jeans.For Andrew Garfield, best known as the most recent (but not the last) guy to don Spider-Man’s costume on the big screen, 99 Homes is a movie cares about. “If you’re trying to please every single f—ing demographic – and I have been involved in a couple of movies that try – the work ends up being general, and kind of palatable as opposed to healing and moving and deeper,” said Garfield, obliquely referring to his role as the web-slinger in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I had it for a role I just did (in Martin Scorsese’s Silence) and now I haven’t been able to cut it, because I don’t know how short I’m allowed to go for my next thing.

But in “” — which begins showing Friday in Los Angeles and New York, and opens nationwide on October 9 — director Ramin Bahrani offers the most authentic portrait of the foreclosure crisis ever committed to film. With nowhere else to turn, Nash strikes a deal with the devil and ends up working for slimy real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the very man who evicted him. I hate it.” The classically trained English actor, 32, who shot to fame as Spidey in two installments of the much-rebooted franchise (Tom Holland takes the role next in Captain America: Civil War), has grown up a lot since becoming Peter Parker. And he found people at the mercy of an economy beyond their control, from homeowner victims living in transient motels along Highway 142 to real estate brokers forced to become agents of misery to survive. Like many actors, Garfield goes back and forth between larger commercial films, such as the two Amazing Spider-Man movies and 2010’s The Social Network (of which he’s very proud), and smaller, indie fare. “Does (Spider-Man) give me more ability to get something like this off the ground in a quicker more vital way?

The movie, which premiered at the Venice and Telluride film festivals last year, stars Andrew Garfield as Dennis Nash, an Orlando construction worker struggling to find work after the housing bubble collapses. As blue-collar worker Dennis Nash, he fights being evicted from the home that he shares with his mother (Laura Dern) and young son (Noah Lomax) after they default on their mortgage.

Nash leaves and finds a hotel to stay in; he says it’ll only be a couple days, and one of the residents replies, “That’s what I said two years ago.” Before long, Nash begins working for Carver, learning how to become the enforcer of evictions on the other side. As he begins to profit from suffering, Nash must figure out how much he will sacrifice his ideals to keep his family (Laura Dern as his mother, and newcomer Noah Lomax as his son) free from desperation. To prepare for the scene, Garfield and Shannon spent two weeks researching and talking with families in Orlando before shooting the film in New Orleans. Incredibly, in talking to homeowners in Florida, Garfield met a day laborer who was evicted and then started performing evictions, the exact plot of the already-written movie.

Mortgages never made sense to me, even a completely on-the-up-and-up mortgage seemed like a scam to me, let alone the poisonous ones they’ve been distributing.” “I think this movie’s very important, because a lot of the verbiage surrounding this situation is very technical. The man stopped after having to evict one of his best friends, but six months later the friend came to him and said he was forced into doing the same thing. It can all seem very technical and financial and inhuman,” said Shannon. “It’s surprising to me that it’s taken this long for a filmmaker to say no, this is not just some dry, acerbic subject matter.

Bahrani heightened the emotional tumult of foreclosures by using a real sheriff who conducts evictions, a real clean-out crew who empties foreclosed homes, and in many cases, real homeowners having trouble paying their bills. “We had to make these headlines into real people, not a statistic,” Bahrani told Salon. “Every other victim was not an actor and I never told Andrew who was real.” The scenes pull no punches: real estate agents carry a gun into evictions, and the film opens on the bloodied bathroom of a man who would rather kill himself than leave his home. We’re all participating in a system that doesn’t serve anybody.” He’s not unfamiliar with financial anxiety: Pressure hit Garfield’s family when he was a child (his American dad was an entrepreneur; his mother, who is British, was a teacher). “I felt the instability of this financial system in my own life and in my family life,” he says simply. For the star, 99 Homes represents the stories of so many families who aren’t in the headlines today. “Everyone is terrified of losing what they already have or not being able to put enough food on the table to survive,” he says. “That’s what I see.” The director connected with activists like Lynn Szymoniak, the foreclosure victim, anti-fraud specialist and whistleblower who helped the government win $95 million from banks in 2012.

Michael Shannon’s character Rick Carver snaps up homes and manages them for financial firms like Bank of America or government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And he commits small-time scams to stay ahead, from manipulating the “cash for keys” program to acquire homes or unbolting air conditioners and charging the bank to re-install them. When greedy banks and an inattentive government created the bubble and the crash, he had to adapt. “I have two daughters, I wasn’t going to let them live in some hotel,” Carver thunders. “America doesn’t bail out losers, America was built by bailing out winners.” By the end you may not agree with Carver’s methods, but you understand his worldview, the same one that Nash must grapple with. “As Michael Shannon says, the real devil is the system that created him,” Ramin Bahrani said. “When the Libor scandal hit and banks were fined billions, they still made ten-fold more and nobody went to jail.

The Stern-based character fabricates a critical mortgage document to execute a foreclosure, leading to the film’s climax. “They got an amazing amount of stuff into a non-documentary film,” said Lynn Szymoniak. “99 Homes,” whose name comes in part from the 1 percent-versus-99 percent slogan popularized by Occupy Wall Street, intends to elevate as well as inform. Bahrani mentioned that an anonymous donor gave $20,000 to Lynn Szymoniak’s anti-foreclosure non-profit, the Housing Justice Foundation, after seeing the film’s trailer. “I already feel like the movie’s done something to raise money for people who need it,” Bahrani said.

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