A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 99 Homes is a powerful, thought-provoking indie drama that weaves the recent financial crisis with the classic Faust legend. Expect a couple of scenes of bloody violence and gore, a dead body, and some fighting, as well as a house filled with excrement. Language is fairly strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--ksucker," and "a--hole." There's some sexual innuendo and passionate kissing, as well as scantily clad women and objectification of female characters. Characters smoke cigarettes regularly (one character also smokes a "vape"), and there's a scene of heavy drinking and cigar smoking at a party. Given that the film stars The Amazing Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield, teens may be interested.
What's the story?
Independent contractor Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) does his best to support his mother (Laura Dern) and his son (Noah Lomax) with his increasingly intermittent income, but the day comes when the bank sends a foreclosure notice. Dennis tries to navigate the red tape and save his house, but time runs out, and slick, no-nonsense broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up to kick them out. An angered Dennis later confronts Rick ... and finds himself with a job offer. As Dennis rises through the ranks of Rick's organization, he finds ways to cheat the bank, and his paychecks increase. He dreams of getting his old house back, but when he starts foreclosing on others, Dennis begins to realize that he may have compromised his soul.
Is it any good?
Acclaimed indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, who regularly and bravely focuses on heartbreaking trials of life while keeping his stories rooted in humanity, turns in some of his finest work here. A drama of great power and subtlety, 99 HOMES manages to talk about one of today's most pressing and troubling issues without getting preachy or overbearing. At the same time, the movie borrows the classical structure of the Faust story while still managing to feel immediate and relevant.
Perhaps it's this merging of the classical and modern that makes the movie work so well -- or maybe it's the impressive performances. Shannon has rarely been used so well, with his sinister, snaky countenance and his weird charm crossing paths. And Garfield is both commanding and heartbreaking. Certain moments (losing the home) beautifully capture a kind of short-of-breath panic and others (earning dirty money) a kind of sickening elation, but all of it is remarkably immediate -- and remarkably human.
Talk to your kids about ...
What is the Faust legend? What lessons are learned from it? Can you think of other movies that build on this concept?
How much does the movie explain about the financial crisis that began in 2008? What does foreclosing on people's houses have to do with it? Who gains? Why? Has anything changed?
How frequently do the characters smoke? Does it change the way you feel about them?
- In theaters: September 25, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 9, 2016
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
- Director: Ramin Bahrani
- Studio: Broad Green Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references, and a brief violent image
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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