99 Homes: Review / by Kenneth Buff

99 Homes takes place in Orlando, Florida in 2010, just after the economic down turn of 2008. It stars Andrew Garfield as a blue collar construction worker who fails to pay his mortgage and loses his house. Garfield and his family move into an over crowded, run down hotel, he loses his job, and becomes desperate. He takes on odd jobs for the man who took his house, realtor Rick Carver, played brilliantly by Michael Shannon.

The drama is the driving force behind 99 Homes. The fact that the story is based on actual recent events that are still very relevant today make it hit that much harder, so it's a little surprising that more often than not the film chooses to milk the drama of its scenes too far. Much of the film is comprised of scenes of various Floridans having their houses repossessed. In these scenes Michael Shannon or Andrew Garfield deliver the bad news, the ex-home owners shed their tears, belt their screams, or are so shocked they seem to lack any kind of response. These scenes are touching, they're simple and they communicate the message of the movie perfectly. Unfortunately the film doesn't stop there. Often things simply keep getting worse the ex-home owners. Their kids show up from school right as the police are repossessing the home,  the kids stare at the camera, hitting us over the head with the fact that these kids no longer have a home. It's over the top, and goes against the rest of the script that is pretty smart for such a straight forward movie.

Michael Shannon is what makes this movie. His character is the most defined. He was a guy who sold people houses before the recession, now he takes them away, but not because he wants to, but because he doesn't want to sink, so he does what he has to do. It's completely believable, especially when the words are coming out of Shannon's mouth, he sells the role. We know nothing about Garfield's character except that his mom had him when he was young and that he still lives with her and his son (the fate of the mother is never revealed). Not having a back story for Garfield's character is a big mistake, it's hard to feel for him later when his life goes to shit, having no real emotional connection with him. But over all Garfield is a good enough actor to make the part work, and Shannon is perfect, stealing every scene he's in.

Over all the movie was one of the more entertaining films I've seen this fall. It's not without its flaws, but it overcomes them with a strange cast and a great premise.