Urgent as a heart attack and as timely as the headlines, 99 Homes is one of those films that make other "topical" dramas look tinny. This astute, intense drama boasts sharp performances and belongs in the same company as films like "Margin Call" and "Michael Clayton" -- contemporary stories whose of-the-moment nature only makes their great parts better.
Maguire’s portrayal of Fischer’s volatility, disconnect and inner demons is gripping. It’s his best performance since “Wonder Boys” (2000). Schreiber hardly says anything, yet he’s gloweringly good. He acts with his jowls and brow and swept-back hair, making the sort-of rock-’n’-roll Spassky a polar opposite, but strategic equal, to Fischer. Saarsgaard is also terrific, lending a quiet air of solemnity and thoughtfulness.
What this rich film does go into — in a lengthy tangent that’s less punchy but important — is the impropriety Jobs trafficked in when he allowed himself and high-ranking Apple-ers to be granted backdated stock options. They got wealthy as their product was being made, amid some scandal, for a pittance in China.
“Natural” perfectly describes Nolte’s performance, too. With his growly voice and bear-like aura, he might be dismissed as a walking sight gag, but don’t let that fool you. Nolte’s way with a joke is nimble, and his delivery is spot-on.
The cool cast includes casual drop-ins from Sam Rockwell, Melanie Lynskey and Sam Elliott. The actors give off the feeling that we’ve wandered into the middle of a conversation among friends. This being a Swanberg movie, that’s kind of what is happening, complete with tiny epiphanies and people you want to hear keep talking.