Tuesday, 21 April 2015

REVIEW - 99 HOMES (RAMIN BAHRANI)


Besides openly berating us, the greatest insult a filmmaker can deliver an audience is condescension, treating us as fools unaware of their schemes, too blinded by their filmmaking mastery to take stock of their manipulative techniques. It's not an accusation, it's an assumption, and it's one that Ramin Bahrani can't help but make. To give him credit, there's a large portion of the American populace that does need told, just not like this - 99 Homes' rabid redress of the crushing impact of ruthless corporate culture and individualism on working class American homeowners is too brutish, too contrived and too one-sided to even begin to take cohesive effect. Bahrani is so incredibly unsubtle, so grandiose in his statements and so dismissive of the need for a remotely believable narrative that not only will he fail to convert those whom 99 Homes is targeted toward, he'll likely inspire ridicule and a dismissal of his own from those who don't need told to begin with. If Bahrani's villains are truly villainous, he makes a gross mistake in engendering our sympathy for them - entirely unintentionally, I expect - and in presenting his supposedly 'sympathetic' figures as laughing stocks. Even the notes of character ambiguity he attempts to introduce are basic, each insisting on a flat response from the audience. The film is enormously didactic, and the debate it engages in wholly self-contained, closed to interpretation. This level of browbeating is near interminable; that Bahrani hopes to hide it behind layers of earnestness and a genuinely impressive verite style of directing only enhances the insult. And none of it blinds us, an audience too keen to concede to condescension, no matter how valiantly the actors try. At the very least, Bahrani's consistent suppression of independent female voices in his films is so shameful as to render 99 Homes the latest dud from this would-be auteur.