Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie Review: 99 Homes, Buddy Breakout, Shopping Win

I usually watch movies or read on my tablet before falling asleep, which means that it sometimes takes up 3-4 tries to watch an entire film straight through, because I always  doze off halfway in. Yesterday, I finally watched “99 Homes” through to completion. I almost wish I hadn’t, because it left me with a sad knot in the pit of my heart. This small, independent film is an unsung gem. It didn’t get a ton of attention upon release, but it’s nonetheless masterful in its examination of difficult questions about morality, choices, survival and victimhood. Dennis Nash, soulfully played by Andrew Garfield, is a construction worker who is struggling to keep his mother and son afloat amid the height of the housing crisis, as work dries up and they go further and further into debt. His family is soon evicted from their home by the almost cartoonishly psychopathic Rick Carver, a predatory real estate broker who is making a killing on foreclosed homes. Dennis’s family is forced to move into a crummy motel in the company of other families who have been similarly evicted. In his financial desperation, Dennis slowly gets suckered into working for Rick, engaging in legally sketchy activities, then escalating to ruthlessly evicting others from their houses.

“99 Homes” forces the viewer to confront uncomfortable moral territory. A large part of me was very much rooting for Dennis to get as much as he could out of his questionable relationship with Rick. After all, Dennis was the hard-working victim of a rigged system, and I wanted him be able to support his family and profit from the ruthless Rick. But I was also appalled at how quickly and unquestioningly he took on the role of victimizer in his determination to be the heroic breadwinner he wanted to be for his family. As Rick’s demands on Dennis became more and more extreme and legally risky, I wanted Dennis to rise up somehow and outsmart him at his own game. But true to his character, Rick, although loyal, is hardly a criminal mastermind, and in the end, his altruism is both his savoir and his downfall. If you have some emotional strength to spare, I’d recommend watching this film. It’s a fine commentary on the American obsession with home ownership and the illusion of security.

In cat news, Buddy, who has been plotting a breakout for months, finally got his wish last week. He sailed over the railing off the deck and ran off to parts unknown, where he hid out for a full day and night before finally returning, bedraggled, dirty and scared. He scrambled up the tree and back onto the deck, snarfed down an entire can of food, then sped off to the bedroom and hid under the bed for twelve hours straight. Good. I hope that blasted cat now realizes that the grass is not greener on the other side of the deck, and having to hunt for your dinner sucks. Buddy is now perma-banned from the deck, but Mr. Typist took pity on his wanderlust soul and got him a harness and a leash. He and Buddy now go on regular “outings” to various parks, where Buddy can safely indulge his zeal for the outdoors without the danger of being a free-roaming cat in an overcrowded, traffic-heavy city.

Yesterday, I went clothes shopping, and to my utter shock, it wasn’t terrible. I actually found an abundance of sensible work clothes in more or less in my size, at reasonable prices and in a variety of colors and styles. My work wardrobe had become embarrassingly shabby and faded, and picking out my clothes out for work was an exercise in depression. It was high time for a purge-and-replace, but I dread shopping the way most people dread going to the dentist, especially with the debacles I’ve had recently trying to find anything that isn’t a drippy blouse or a maxi dress. But Big Major Department Store actually had some nice, non-drippy tops and even more surprisingly, a few pairs of pants that actually fit me. It’s by no means designer stuff or even high-quality, but I’ve been so beaten down by the retail system that I’m grateful just to have something I can put on my back, even if it’s a cheaply made shirt sewn by slave labor. And shopping is over for another year or two, when the crappy fabrics will no doubt unravel and fade, and I’ll have to do the whole thing all over again. But for one, whole glorious year I will have New Stuff to wear to work, and that’s all a lady can ask for.

--Kristen McHenry

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