Nicole Lucca ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Gone are the days of web slinging and teen heartthrob status for Andrew Garfield, and unto years of vivacious performances that demand attention beyond blockbuster glamour. 99 Homes is the start of that reputation. Set in Orlando during economic travesty, the dramatic character study jabs the audience from the beginning as dedicated single father Dennis Nash (Garfield) loses his job and gets evicted from his generational family home. His mother (Laura Dern) and young son are shattered as they are unexpectedly torn from everything they know and, literally, thrown to the curb. The face of this tragedy is Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), a sadistically humorous, all-business bank representative sent to do the dirty work and listen to repetitive pleas for more chances. In desperation to make money, Dennis begins working for the very man who evicted him, and the pair spiral into background deals and emotional vacancy in order to make money off of other’s tragedy.
The collaboration of a lavish quick-witted businessman and gritty humbled worker is unlikely, but the plot avoids becoming the premise of a sitcom with a quick pace and realistic edge in every meltdown and comeback. It avoids every possible pitfall of complicated legalities or cluttered backstory and instead delivers a clean story where the only thing that matters is the present. Every shot is simple and aesthetically stunning without looking processed. Frequent use of extreme close ups detects every hesitation and swell of tears; you can feel the actors becoming people that exist in the crevices of America. As the story progresses, Dennis evolves into a cog in the other side of the foreclosing machine he originally cursed.
The performances in 99 Homes do not feel like acts, but extensions of people who exist in another reality. Garfield is visceral as he claws out every bit of compassion he has for his peers while trying to survive in a struggling America. His trembling conviction is explosive; each emotion is not only understood but conveyed to the audience in the forms of anxiety, rage, and abysmal grief. Shannon’s detached banter is as clever as it is ravenous. The fault lies in the lack of development of Dennis’s mother, who exists simply to miss a shell of a house they chase after.
In the Darwinist world of real estate, emotions are exchanged for numbers. As Richard preaches with a sly smile, “America was built by bailing out winners.” 99 Homes gives voices to those forgotten by this theory, and produces chills as human resilience is pulled to its breaking point. With praise worthy visuals and performances that convince life into a far away—but grave—reality, the film creates a balance between succinct story and an emotionally investing experience.
Overall Grade: A-
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