The late Roger Ebert proclaimed Ramin Bahrani the director of the decade on the basis of his movies “Chop Shop” and “Goodbye Solo,” both of which came out in the 2000s. His films have received tremendous critical acclaim and numerous awards from one film festival to the next, and that streak does not look to stop with his latest work. “99 Homes” stars Andrew Garfield as an unemployed contractor who is unjustly evicted from him home, and Michael Shannon as the real estate magnate who kicked him out of it and who eventually becomes his mentor in the art of home foreclosures. It’s a thriller that is unsettling as it is heartbreaking as it calls attention to the housing crisis that swept the nation and those cold-hearted and greedy men who profited greatly from it.
Bahrani gives us a story that will hit close to home as it contains agonizing scenes of Garfield and his family being given only a few minutes to pack up their belongings and leave their house. He makes you feel the searing discord between the haves and the have nots as it’s open season on homeowners who have no chance of defending what is rightfully theirs. But when Garfield comes on board with Shannon, he finds a way to dig himself out of his financial black hole so that he can get back his house. But as Garfield gets deeper and deeper into Shannon’s world, he starts losing his ethical and moral bearings as he begins doing to others what was done to him.
Bahrani was recently at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California to do a press conference on “99 Homes.” I was one of the reporters there, and I told him that the movie seemed to be as much about survival in an economically shaky world as it is about greed and home foreclosures. When I asked him what he felt “99 Homes” has to say about surviving in this crazy world the characters inhabit, he said the following:
Ramin Bahrani: “One of the scenes I really like, for me it was like something from Dostoyevsky in my mind, was when the two men sit at the dock at night. And I remember Michael (Shannon) came up to me and said, ‘Ramin, is this the important line in the scene?” I told him, ‘Michael, this is the important line in the whole movie.’ And that’s after Michael tells Andrew (Garfield) that he carries a gun even at two o’clock in the morning because he was almost run off the road one time when he goes to dinner with his family and all this stuff, and Andrew says, ‘Is it worth it?’ And Michael looks at him and says, ‘As opposed to what?’”
It’s a haunting question that left the reporters at the press conference speechless, and it’s one of the many reasons why you must see “99 Homes” which is now playing in select cities. It will go into wide release on October 9.