It is no longer possible to have a serious discussion about poverty and the income gap without having a serious discussion about housing. “99 Homes” dramatizes this tragic social ill. [Last week’s publication of Evicted by Matthew Desmond, a Harvard sociologist, demonstrates through statistics how eviction feeds the cycle of poverty.]
In this country the human cost and callous treatment of those evicted is not publicized until now. “99Homes” is a vivid portrayal of the humiliation, greed, and perversion of the legal system which allows eviction without recourse or appeal. Directed by newcomer Ramin Bahrani (producer of “Man Push Cart”), “99 Homes” opens with a scene of the pending eviction of unpaid and now a recently unemployed construction worker Dennis Nash (the gifted Andrew Garfield). The fabulously wealthy but ruthless real-estate dealer, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), fully realizes the dangers of eviction. The desperate, angry and now homeless residents he deals with have lost everything and therefore have nothing to lose. Soon jobless Dennis Nash unexpectedly ends up working for Carver as a server of eviction notices himself. What choice does he have—homelessness or serving the agent responsible for his situation?
As the working middle class and poor sometimes pay as much as 88% of their take home pay for their housing, we understand the vulnerability, anger, and life-threatening behavior they resort to in moments of utter hopelessness. Clear-eyed and nonjudgmental in tone, “99 Homes” portrays the desperation and panic of people who are rendered homeless in the blink of an eye for failure to pay a few months’ mortgage or rent. “99 Homes” highlights the vulnerability of single mothers, the elderly, and people of color. There are no easy answers.