With 99 Homes, writer-director Ramin Bahrani tells the moving story of how the housing crash of 2008 almost destroys the lives of one small family. Andrew Garfield stars as Dennis Nash, a young father who works construction to take care of his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern) and his son, Connor (Noah Lomax) — at least, he used to. With the economy crash went all of Dennis' old jobs, and gone with them was his livelihood, and now, his home, which is repossessed by Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). What follows is a conflicted tale of survival, in which Dennis begins working for Rick and his real estate business, repossessing houses for banks, essentially being paid to evict others from their homes, just as he was from his. The trailer teases that the movie is "inspired by true events," but, is 99 Homes based on a true story? In actuality, the events and characters of 99 Homes (out Sept. 25) are not based on any one story or real people, but the hardships depicted on-screen are painfully true to life.
Bahrani and co-writers Amir Naderi and Bahareh Azimi conducted extensive research to pen the script for 99 Homes. After deciding to set the film in Orlando, Florida, Bahrani traveled there to research the housing crisis firsthand. Bahrani spoke to real estate brokers, developers and lawyers, and researched the eviction process, reading true stories and observing court hearings in which families desperately tried to keep their homes. Bahrani also discovered the extent of the violence involved in the eviction process in Florida — the gangster-like quality to housing deals that can break apart families.
"The more research I did and the more I spent time there, the more I realized that there's actually some other thing going on, which is guns, violence, deep corruption, thievery, gaming the system, and cons. There was something visceral and frightening about it," Bahrani told Interview.
No one situation or person inspired the main story of Dennis Nash and his deal with the devil, Rick Carver, but there were a few characters based on real people. Mr. Freeman (Clancy Brown), a smarmy lawyer in the film, for example, was inspired by a man Bahrani described to Interview as "the foreclosure king of Florida. He was doing about 40,000 evictions a year — was guilty as hell for robo-signing and never went to jail."
The many evictions depicted in the film were also inspired by real events, or, more specifically, evictions Bahrani witnessed himself while researching in Florida. "They ranged the gamut and we tried to show them in the film, some of them extremely heartbreaking and others very scary. Some people with guns, some people with tears," Bahrani told Crave Online.
As for the actors, they did their fair share of research as well. In an interview with Indiewire, Garfield said he spent two weeks leading up to filming meeting with families going through evictions.
"I got to go down and spend two weeks with families who were going through the same thing that my character goes though. And it felt pretty vital, because when I read the script I got hit — I was like, 'I know this. How do I know this? I've never been evicted.'" Garfield said. "But I believe that we all know it. When I reached the scene where the Nash family gets evicted it felt so universal, even though only a portion of people go through those specific circumstances. Just in terms of people feeling exiled, it felt so universal, even though only a portion of people go through these specific circumstances."
So while not based directly on any one story, 99 Homes was certainly inspired by true events, some of which happened years ago, others which are taking place right now. It's a sad reality to see reflected on screen, but it's certainly a worthwhile subject.
Images: Broad Green Pictures