99 Homes ★★★½

"What did you do wrong that your family lives in a motel?" ~ Rick Carver

Being evicted from your childhood home has got to be one of the most stressful, embarrassing and degrading things that can ever happen to a person. This film by writer-director Ramin Bahrani starts off with not one but two such evictions, the first resulting in a suicide and the second in the devastating displacement of a Florida family consisting of unemployed construction worker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), his adolescent son Connor (Noah Lomax) and Dennis's mother Lynn (Laura Dern).

The guy in charge of the eviction process on behalf of the mortgage-holding bank is vapor-smoking realtor Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), accompanied by Sheriff Anderson (Randy Austin) and his men. But Carver isn't without a conscience or a profit motive. He offers Nash a job working for him, cleaning up distressed properties, reporting freeloaders and installing cheaply obtained fixtures. In no time, Nash is making some serious dinero.

Of course, there's some deceit involved. Carver has Nash scamming the government over missing air conditioners, pool filters, and fake tenants occupying vacant properties. There are thousands of dollars to be gained in scams related to foreclosures, and Carver knows them all. But Nash's real objective is to get his family home back, and that suddenly seems possible with Carver's help. And as Nash gets sucked deeper into the world of easy money, he convinces himself he's being smart.

This film won Bahrani two awards at Venice, plus a nomination for the Golden Lion. Shannon received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, too. Given the current state of the U.S. economy, this is a very relevant topic that's bound to interest anyone who's ever had a problem making a rent or mortgage payment. Kudos to Bahrani for taking up such a current dilemma.

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