99 homes by Ramin Bahrani. Is it about Trump, and is it any good?

6:42:00 AM

Michael Shannon 99 Homes

What's the deal: 99 directed Ramin Bahrani shot in 2014, was released in October 2015, and on iTunes right about now. The subject matter and morality of this low budget thriller is timely, but it wasn't a success at the box-office. It taps into the frustration that is running amok in the States, in this election year, and will confirm a lot of voters argue points, but is it any good?

Let's time travel to 1952. Why? Cause I said so. 
One of the most heartbreaking movies you could ever watch, and so so worth it, is the Neo-realistic classic by Vittorio de Sica Umberto D. It's the story of Umberto D. Ferrari, a pensioner, who's only friend is his dog Flike. Umberto is not able to pay his rent and he tries to raise the money by selling his meager possessions. Even when desperate he refuses to beg on the street. On top of all that he gets sick.  While recovering in the hospital his dog runs away, gets put in the dog pound and his flat gets rented out.
Are you crying yet?
In the nailbiting last sequence, Umberto, finds his dog and tries to find a new home for him, having decided to kill himself. Of course this being a masterpiece, nobody wants the dog. So he stands with Flike in his arms on the railroad tracks, awaiting their death.
I assure you, this is a moment you will not forget. 
Spoiler: he just can not go through it. Flike saves him, and we get a brief moment of happiness.  The movie ends there. But then what ? What can this poor man do now? .

You may say it sounds sentimental, and you can ask yourself, why does she go on about an Italian dude while talking about 99 homes?
Well, this is the story of Dennis Nash ( Andrew Garfield), a single father who lives with his mother. He loses his construction job, and is not able to pay his mortgage. He gets evicted by real estate broker (start to understand why this movie came out now?) Rick Carver ( Micael Shannon).  Dennis, his kid and his mom (Laura Dern) move to a rundown motel. Obviously Dennis will do anything to get back on track and provide for his son. And he will have to pay a price for that.

In a interview with Indiewire director Ramin Bahrani, tells of his trip to Florida to research the real estate crisis, where he saw brokers doing the evictions and riding around with guns. Conclusion this had to be  thriller.

I am not so convinced.
Fairly soon Dennis starts working for the man that evicted him. Well duh, that is were the money is at. As Rick explains: " Do you go to church? Only one in 100 is getting on that arc. And I am not going to drown." Or. " Fuck dreams. Don't get emotionally involved."
The message here is that the US economy is build on people getting rich by screwing somebody else. Not exactly news. If you don't want to be poor, you have to be morally corrupt, that is Rick Carvers philosophy.
99 Homes is a morality play, one man doesn't have them, one tries not to have them to save his family. But unfortunately for him his son, and his mom are moral touchstones, they will eventually judge Dennis for what he has done to save them.
I have real difficulties with this bit. Maybe I am too much of a cynic, (SPOILER ALERT, SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH) but a kid who will turn on his father for giving him a pool, and a mother turning against her son for trying so hard to get them to safety, even it is paved on the suffering of others, I found hard to swallow. Not because I agree with the greedy attitude of Rick Carver,  not at all, and maybe it could be believable, but is it insightful, is it smart filmmaking, is it a bit too old-fashioned? Bahrani names Wall Street as an influence, and of course. The deal with the devil, the disapproving parent. But Charlie Sheen was a trader on Wall Street not actually on the street. Nobody was desperate there, only greedy, and shallow. It was very believable that his father, and honest worker, would disapprove of his lifestyle. And Wall Street is a good movie, because it dares to go big. 

99 Homes is very low key. I love low key movies, when they are about relationships, about normal every day stuff. This subject doesn't work well in a low key setting. Rick Carver is essentially the worst of the worst, and Micheal Shannon is one of the best actors working today, he is mesmerizing here ( Take Shelter is one of my favorite movies of these past years, my husband and me always turn to each other every time it starts to rain : "There is a storm coming!")
Wow, I talked a lot about other movies in this review, but that is what happens when something is unsatisfying. Not bad, not at all, but it just doesn't get there. Maybe it is Andrew Garfield, sympathetic and puppy like, but, not nailing this role exactly. Not his fault, the role, has only one layer.
Of course if you want to watch something political, because it is, more political than effective, and I agree you should be very afraid what that other real estate broker ( name checked in this movie) will do with the country, this is a perfect movie to get angry with. But there are better ways to get angry than by watching a movie. 
If you expected a thriller, I don't care what Bahrani says, this isn't one. Maybe it is cliche that a gun goes off when shown, but in a thriller is has to be more than a prop.
Micheal Shannon really deserves to be seen. I don't want to be harsh, it is just a shame, 99 Homes misses something.
Let me end on a positive note. If you are angry about what the bastards did, are doing and will do to your country watch Mr Robot, or if you want turn that frown upside upside down watch the iconic Sanders clip.
If you want to see a morality play down well, Better Call Saul is on a roll.
I leave you with Umberto & Flike. Happy ugly cry!

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