Sundance Review: 99 Homes Doesn’t Take Advantage Of Its Cast
Title: 99 Homes
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Screenwriter: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Nederi, and Bahareh Azimi
Principal Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee, Cullen Moss, and J.D. Evermore
Summary: A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.
When flipping through the Sundance booklet to figure out what movies you want to see there are a lot of things to look for. There are times the title is the thing that will pull you in or maybe it’s the summary. There are some movies you’ll decide to see because there is maybe a ton of buzz on the movies. Then there are times when a cast is the thing that gets you in the theater. That was the case for me and 99 Homes. I really like Michael Shannon when he gets to be the villain, and Andrew Garfield is good when he isn’t playing Peter Parker.
Unfortunately, 99 Homes doesn’t let Michael Shannon really cut loose in the way that would make it fun, and with a pretty standard story makes it very forgettable.
There are a lot of things that makes Michael Shannon a fun character actor, but he’s really at his best when he’s able to chew the scenery. That is what I was hoping for when I saw the summary for 99 Homes and I was sorely let down. While Shannon is our villain he doesn’t get to go over the top. Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) is far from a good person and he absolutely stands by and smokes as he watches people get kicked out of their homes. However, he doesn’t really get the chance to really go over the top with the role. I was expecting some swarmy real estate agent, but Carver really just comes off as any other greedy guy that’s only looking out for himself. That, in itself, isn’t so over the top anymore; I can name a few CEO’s that fit the bill.
Andrew Garfield is also someone who might be miscast. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact the only things I’ve seen Garfield in recently is The Amazing Spider-Man series, so I sometimes forget that he’s in his 30’s. He also has a baby face so he does look much younger than he really is. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe that Garfield was a dad, but more that his son seemed too old for someone who looks as young as Garfield does. There’s also the fact that Dennis Nash falls into exactly the character arc that you would expect from him. It’s not that he’s bad in this role, it’s more that he’s really just forgettable.
The story is really the thing that drags 99 Homes into something that will only be a minor mark on the careers of all involved. As soon as the main plot kicks in you know exactly where the story is going and there aren’t any twists and turns. As I’ve said before, I try to look at the independent scene to mix up the various tropes that exist in film. If I wanted to see something incredibly conventional I’d just wait to see something to come out in theaters. I go to a Film Festival to see something I might not see, something different, and there isn’t anything different about 99 Homes. The writing isn’t terrible and the direction isn’t bad either but the overall story isn’t anything special. Nash eventually teams up with Carver to get his house back and then starts to make money and you know where this is going. If the story had let Shannon really cut loose and go over the top it could have saved it, but he’s uncharacteristically restrained.
99 Homes is a perfect example a movie that would do well during the mid spring or fall. It isn’t offensive, it isn’t bad but it won’t make a huge impression, either.