Back at the beginning of the year I took a group of clients to see The Big Short. Great movie, fun and infuriating. That was about, in a fashion, how we got into this mess – the great recession, housing crisis, ongoing foreclosures. It was a sobering overview of the last few years.
This promised to be a year of movies about the financial crisis, recession, and aftermath and I’ve recently had a chance to see one of the latest, 99 Homes. Okay, actually, I saw Money Monster first, but that’s so far out of the realm of … reality . . . as to be meaningless (unless you believe that Julia Roberts and George Clooney solving a pending financial disaster/scam in a few hours has some real world application).
99 Homes, on the other hand, was a kick in the stomach. It was visceral, it was brutal. It began with a court hearing in Orlando, Florida. A twenty second hearing in which a character was told the paperwork was in order and he would be evicted by the bank in the morning. The eviction scene was tense and just heart-ripping. It was hard to watch.
Something really hit me in the brief moments before that scene, though. It was quick and it could certainly have been overlooked in what follows – except that it’s repeated later in the movie, a few times actually, albeit in different forms.
This is it: a shot of the homeowner at a kitchen table buried in paperwork. He’s frantically burrowing through it while calling attorneys on his cell phone. It becomes clear that our protagonist ignored dozens – at least – notices from the bank, court, and the sheriff’s office.
Later, as the movie takes some dark turns and heads toward the ’99’ homes of the title, it’s obvious that most of the people Michael Shannon (great in this, as in almost everything else) is evicting have done exactly the same thing – they’ve ignored notices, even ones stuck on their front doors by day-glo red tape.
It’s a theme I’ve explored more than a few times and really thought I had a handle on. But seeing it … was hard. There’s a natural reaction to wanting bad news to go away without having to do anything. There’s the depression that hits, the ‘nah, this isn’t really happening’ denial … well, really most of the steps normally associated with the grieving process.
Except here, as so vividly shown in the film, there is no acceptance, just sheriffs and a bank rep at the door to wrest the home away.
I’m still a little rocked by this but I’m pretty sure the next time someone hesitates before hiring me I’ll just tell them to watch 99 Homes and get back to me.