Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is the kind of guy who makes
America great. He's young,
energetic, hardworking, and amiable.
His particular trade is contruction; he can do anything from
roofing to air conditioning to drywall.
The trouble is, the work has been drying up lately.
It's Orlando, Florida, in 2010, when the aftershocks of the
housing bubble were really hitting home.
As in people actually losing their homes.
Dennis Nash had done what so many others had:
gotten himself overextended.
He's taken out a second mortgage to finance some house expansion
on the old family homestead, so his young son Connor (Noah Lomax) and
his Mom, Lynn (Laura Dern), who lives with them, could have their own
space. But Dennis Nash had
gone from foreman to looking for any odd jobs to finding no work at all,
just because of the downward economy.
He couldn't pay his bills, including his mortgage.
And suddenly he finds himself in court, begging the judge for
more time, but there isn't any more time.
The bank has foreclosed. Dennis
goes home despondent, thinking he only has 30 days to clear out, when
the sheriff and his deputy show up the next day to evict him.
It's a sad, poignant scene. Dennis
and Laura are trying to argue and stall to no avail.
They are told they don't own the property any more, so they're
trespassing. They're told
they have two minutes to gather absolute essentials:
checkbook, wallet, purse, car keys, maybe a couple of family
photos. Then they're
escorted to the curb, and the rest of their stuff is put out on the lawn
by a hired-hand crew waiting by the truck.
Presiding over this human tragedy is Rick Carver (Michael
Shannon), who says he represents the bank.
And he's not there to be nice or negotiate or bargain for more
time. He's there to get them
out of the house. Now.
Dennis Nash is reeling, of course, as is his son and his Mom, and
all they know to do is drive to the cheap motel and rent a room for a
couple of nights, somewhere to throw their stuff until they figure out
what to do. Except there
isn't any figuring, and a couple of nights turns into indefinitely, like
all the other evicted families at that motel.
Conor doesn't want to switch schools, of course, and he misses
his friends. But Lynn is a
hairdresser, and she can gradually begin to develop new clients there,
and work out of their cramped little apartment.
But Dennis? All he
knows to do is go storm the office of that Rick Carver guy, demanding
his tools back from a worker he's convinced stole them from him.
The ensuing fight on the parking lot at least gets Dennis noticed
by Rick Carver, who can smell opportunity from a distance.
He gets a call about a particularly nasty foreclosure: the
tenants had purposefully backed up the toilets before they left in a
rage, and spray-painted angry graffiti on the walls.
Rick Carver looks at Dennis and sees a guy desperate enough to do
any work, including, yes, cleaning up raw sewage, that stinks so bad it
makes him throw up. But now
the employer-employee relationship is established.
Rick Carver begins to trust Dennis to do repair on other sites,
and pretty soon has introduced him to his shadowy, flim-flam world of
serial foreclosure. It seems
that there are some profitable shortcuts available, also, like removing
air conditioning units and pool pumps, and then taking photographs of
the empty concrete pedastals, and submitting them to Fannie Mae for free
replacement. And then selling the originals on the black market. (Sure,
it's illegal, but who's going to catch them?)
Dennis gets caught up in this world, because he tells himself
this is the only way he can provide for his family.
Rick Carver tells him there are guys who go under and guys who
get rich, and he wants to be one of the guys who get rich.
He just has to take advantage of opportunities when he sees them,
and then be tough, unyielding, and resolute.
They all have sob stories, but he isn't a social worker.
The battle, of course, is for the soul of Dennis Nash.
And Andrew Garfield plays him just winsomely enough for us to
feel his pain on the precipice of every slippery slope.