EQUITY (USA/15A/100mins)
Directed by Meera Menon. Starring Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Craig Bierko
THE PLOT: Investment banker Naomi (Anna Gunn) is tenacious, smart and incredibly good at her job. When scandal threatens her newest investment however, Naomi must get to the bottom of the rumours, and uncovers a web of corruption that begins right at her own front door.
THE VERDICT: ‘Equity’ is the first female driven film about Wall Street, but although it has some smart commentary about women struggling in a world dominated by men, it does feel startlingly regressive at times.
Anna Gunn leads the cast here, and she is no stranger to playing powerful women, who refuse to be shut out because of their gender, and this is just who Naomi is. Although she operates fully legally, she has made some wrong choices in her life; choices that would be completely different if they were made by a man, Gunn makes Naomi strong and wilful, and someone who does not suffer fools gladly. Alysia Reiner plays Samantha, a prosecutor with something to prove, and as much as her character Figueroa was a force to be reckoned with on Orange is the New Black, the same is true here, as Samantha is tenacious and as strong willed as the people she is investigating. Sarah Megan Thomas rounds out the central trio as Erin, a young woman desperate to get ahead, no matter the cost. The rest of the cast features Craig Bierko, Nate Corddry, Carrie Preston and Lee Tergesen.
Amy Fox’s screenplay, based on a story by herself, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner attempts to show up the differing ways that women and men are treated in the world of high finance, and to an extent succeeds, but there are times when this entire message is undermined by the behaviour of the characters. Women try to break out of their traditional roles while slipping deeper into them, and this is the first hurdle that the film encounters.
The second hurdle comes at the hands of director Meera Menon, who gives the audience all the information we need to root for the characters, but gives us very little emotional reason to support these women, other than the fact that they are women, and they are the centre of the story. Although the performances are good, the action does not kick in until late in the film, and even though the reveal of corruption and the desire that people have to get ahead is interesting, it comes too late in the film to truly be effective.
In all, there is a great concept behind ‘Equity’, but for all that the film tries to be progressive, there are times when it is distinctly backward looking. The performances are great though, and although the message gets somewhat lost through some winding story and on the nose metaphor, ‘Equity’ is definitely watchable, if not particularly exciting.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Premiering earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, Equity is the first female-driven film about Wall Street. That different perspective reveals that women are just as cut-throat as men when it comes to the high stress world of trading.

    Investment banker Naomi (Anna Gunn) is well-known in stock market circles. Her savvy and no-nonsense approach to trading extends to her personal life too, which involves flirtations with company broker Michael (James Purefoy). Her co-worker Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) follows her every move, nervous of putting a foot wrong. She’ll need to pay attention, as Naomi is due to close a billion-dollar deal with Cachet, a network security company that also acts as a social network. The company is going public shortly and boss Ed (Samuel Roukin) wants everything to go smoothly. Not only that, but he wants the top share price possible and even challenges hackers to take on his security firewalls. Meanwhile, white collar crime investigator Samantha (Alysia Reiner) meets up with Naomi. The old friends may find their friendship tested when Samantha comes sniffing some potentially dodgy deals and a corruption charge. A scandal is coming…

    The flipside of The Big Short is Equity – which by definition means something fair and just, but in financial terms also means balancing the books and making a healthy profit. The theme of making money runs through the film like blood and is Naomi’s personal motto. She’s not in her top job for the fame or fortune – just the money. Meera Menon’s second feature focuses on the relationships and interactions between the women: the bad-tempered and take-no-prisoners Naomi; the seemingly meek but actually stab-you-in-the-back Erin; and the manipulative Samantha, who is not beyond playing mind games of her own to get the information she needs to prosecute.

    Equity is a solid financial drama which thankfully doesn’t get too bogged down in financial terminology or the need to sex it up to make it more appealing to a non-financially minded audience. The central trio of characters are interesting enough to keep the film watchable and tense. The script, written by Amy Fox, from a story by both Thomas and Reiner, is mature enough to not take its audience for granted. It goes for the jugular, as the screws are tightened around our characters, just waiting to pop. Apart from Purefoy, the main actors are unfamiliar to this reviewer, but they do a good job at selling their character motivations – in all its shades of corporate gray. Equity is a well-written and acted drama that offers a different perspective on the murky world of financial trading. These women might just have Gordon Gekko for lunch. ****