From my 9.2.14 Telluride Film Festival review of Ramin Bahrani‘s 99 Homes (Broad Green, 9.25): “It’s obvious from the get-go that Andrew Garfield, known for his sensitive, doe-eyed expressions and an apparent preference for playing alpha good guys who would rather be fucked over than vice versa, is going to rebel against Michael Shannon‘s foreclosure shark and the surrounding venality. This is what people do in films like this — they stand up and cleanse their souls. It’s a cliche that is telegraphed, trust me, from the get-go.
“But the worst moment of all comes when mom Laura Dern and son Noah Lomax find out what Garfield’s job is, and they shun him. This is when I really bailed on this film. Dern: ‘My God…you have no morals! I can’t live with you…I’m going to move in with someone else!’ Lomax: ‘How could you take a job that makes people like us miserable, dad? That’s so awful! I’m going to sit on the couch and avoid eye contact with you!’
“Again, only in the realm of manipulative bullshit.
“In the real world when families are hungry and treading water in shark-filled waters, they don’t care how dad is making money short of his becoming a mob assassin or child pornographer. Garfield isn’t an agent of God’s compassion, obviously, but the people getting tossed have left themselves exposed to predators, and if Garfield wasn’t doing this lousy job somebody else would. Why did these families take out huge loans in the first place? Have they ever heard of living within their means?
“All Garfield’s family would know and say in real life is that they’re not in the tank with those sharks. They have beds and clean sheets to sleep in, a 42-inch flatscreen to watch in the living room, food on the table and locks on the doors…good enough!
“Would there be a certain real-life distance when a son or a mom finds out that dad has not only been lying to them but is evicting families or otherwise doing something bad karma-ish? Probably, but it would be mixed with the fact that it’s really rough out there, the fact that they love and need him, and a belief that this is only temporary and that he’ll go back to honest construction work when an opportunity arises.
“I’m sorry but I didn’t like Bahrani’s At Any Price and I don’t like this one either. It’s unconvincing manipulative filmmaking that is more interested in moral chest-beating than casting any kind of persuasive spell or, you know, winning over guys like myself.
“That said, Shannon is coolly believable as Superprick Carver, but everything he says is on the level of ‘look, the world is made of winners and losers…which group do you wanna be with?” Or ‘I didn’t choose to be a monster…I almost went under myself a few year sago and that’s not gonna happen again.’ Everything he says and does expresses a general ‘sardonic bloodless villain who isn’t really a villain as much as a guy who’s responding to market situations and needs’ aesthetic. But he’s good. I’ve always liked Shannon. My favorite role of his? The wacky truth-teller in Revolutionary Road.”