Taglines: On Wall Street, all players are not created equal.
Equity, the first female-driven Wall Street film, follows Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) finds her career undermined by scandal and corruption.
Denied a promotion, investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) aims to one-up her male counterparts by snagging the IPO for the hottest new social media platform. Her success quickly sours as a scandal threatens the razor-thin divide she maintains between the personal and political. No one can be trusted. Bishop soon faces a daunting attack from an estranged friend-turned-prosecutor (Alysia Reiner) and a challenge in her relationship with her junior partner (Sarah Megan Thomas). Deftly handled by Menon, Amy Fox’s script offers a pitiless vision of Wall Street, post-financial crisis, where no device is too devious between women bracing for the glass ceiling.
The proverbial glass ceiling in “Equity” doesn’t appear to be positioned any higher than it was in 1988, as high-flying investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) is denied a global position by her male superior on the basis of a single underperforming IPO in her otherwise formidable portfolio. “This is not your year,” he tells Naomi with condescending cheer; her face suggests it’s not the first year she’s heard this. In turn, Naomi’s frustrated deputy Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas, one of the film’s producers) is denied a promotion for the second year running: The ladder of opportunity for women in this sector, unsurprisingly, is a narrow one.
Undaunted, Naomi turns to her next IPO coup, setting her sights on cocky British tech entrepreneur Ed (Samuel Roukin) and his buzzy new elite social network (or, as their marketing has it, “privacy company”) Cachet. Negotiations go well, and Naomi duly reels them in, though celebrations are short-lived: Whispered rumors of security breaches are spread by unidentified business rivals, seeking to devalue Cachet’s stock. The further Naomi unpicks the knot, the clearer it becomes that no one is to be trusted in either her professional or personal circles — scarcely differentiated as they are.
Further tightening the screws on the situation, meanwhile, is the sharp scrutiny of Samantha (Alysia Reiner, another producer), an estranged friend now working as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office. A lesbian with a knack for seducing incendiary information out of easily flattered finance bros, she may be the most powerful player in the whole sordid game.
One of the most fascinating avenues of investigation in Fox’s script is the double-edged sword of sexuality for women in finance: As presented here, it’s a weapon that can maneuver them into positions of greater advantage, only to be swiftly used against them by misogynistic gatekeepers. Perceptive as its personal politics often are, however, “Equity” can feel artificial and hastily sketched on the business front — the MacGuffin that is Cachet, especially, reads as a screenwriter’s faintly dated conceit.
Directed by: Meera Menon
Starring: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Margaret Colin, Carrie Preston, Tracie Thoms, Sophie von Haselberg, James Naughton
Screenplay by: Amy Fox
Production Design by: Diane Lederman
Cinematography by: Eric Lin
Film Editing by: Andrew Hafitz
Costume Design by: Teresa Binder
Set Decoration by: Roxy Martinez
Art Direction by: Rory Bruen
Music by: Samuel Jones, Alexis Marsh
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: July 29, 2016