Review: ’99 Homes’ Leaves the Burner On

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Andrew Garfield sheds Spidey 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. After being evicted from his family home, Dennis goes back to work for the greedy real estate businessman who cost him his house in a desperate bid to win the property back. 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.

The timely plot tells the story of many people who had their homes foreclosed due to the housing bubble financial crisis that contributed to America’s 2008 recession. And Andrew is convinced our society has money all wrong. “I felt the instability of this financial system in my own life and in my family life,” he told USA Today. “Everyone is terrified of losing what they already have or not being able to put enough food on the table to survive. 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.

One day, real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), oozing sinister charm (having him vape throughout the film is a genius touch), appears at his door with a local sheriff, a clean-out crew and an order: You have two minutes to gather your belongings and leave the property. 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.

We’re all participating in a system that doesn’t serve anybody.” While preparing for his role in 99 Homes, which is set near Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Andrew spoke to people who have experienced similar tragedy. “I met a guy in Home Depot who had the very experience that Dennis has — he was evicted and he became the evictor,” Andrew shared. “And he ended up having to evict one of his closest friends out of his apartment with his mother.” “In the shadow of Disney, you have these motels where very normal families — Mum, Dad and kids — are living in hotels populated by migrant day labourers, prostitutes and gang members,” Ramin noted. 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. 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. 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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