This 2014 drama follows an unscrupulous real estate broker (Michael Shannon) evicting people from their homes, including a young unemployed father (Andrew Garfield). In other words, the star of Take Shelter takes shelters.
While Take Shelter dealt with the financial crash in quite abstract terms, 99 Homes is a raw, visceral take on the crisis; it makes you feel things in a way most finance films don’t. Where The Big Short paid minimal lip service to the people actually harmed by the housing collapse, 99 Homes makes them its focus.
Ramin Bahrani (who dedicated the movie to Roger Ebert) directs with an almost documentarian approach, drawing devastatingly naturalistic performances from Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern. You won’t see them at the Oscars, not for such a politically off-message movie, even though they brilliantly anchor this painfully realistic drama about the people who suffer while others get rich off the back of their misery.
We’ve seen plenty of films about the people getting rich (Wall Street, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short…); this is a rare case where we see the people who suffer. It’s a movie about the other side of financial recklessness and the way that capitalism works.
Social and economic honesty is not a common feature of American cinema, which usually favours aspiration over realism. For once, a film dares to speak for Americans whose lives were ruined by rampant capitalism (this is tantamount to blasphemy in some circles and TV news networks). At the same time, the film grips like a thriller, pumping the blood in time with the pulsing soundtrack by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales.
Part social realism and part financial thriller, 99 Homes is a savage indictment of American capitalism; an uncomfortable and uncompromising film with “real” characters, ethical questions and political tenacity. Boldly compassionate and terrifyingly natural, this human drama is emptied of Wall Street-style indulgence like families from their homes.