By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Marketed as a female perspective of Wall Street and the banking industry, Equity, for the most part, covers the problems and difficulties faced by women attempting to excel in careers dominated by men. Women still face prejudice in the work place, are often treated like sexual objects, and can be torn between their careers and the demands of marriage and parenthood. Because this movie is written, produced, directed and financed by women, I expected a solid and genuine representation of women’s desire and drive to succeed despite the odds, and the film does offer that to a certain degree. However, I often found myself cringing at the development and portrayal of the main antagonist who comes across as a soap opera villain. Though obviously not perfect, Equity still offers a refreshing take on a business-themed film, but one where there is room for improvement.
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) stars as Naomi Bishop, an investment banker who, after an important deal goes sour, has a chance at redeeming her career with another deal involving a high profile, social media company. Under much scrutiny by her less-than-supportive boss Randall (Lee Tergesen), Naomi and her partner Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas) do their best to delicately handle the intricacies of the deal and still appease the demands of Benji Akers (Craig Bierko), the genius head of the new groundbreaking social media. Things get even more difficult for Naomi as her lover, a corrupt businessman named Michael Connor (James Purefoy), begins sniffing out an investment opportunity that could arise from the deal. To make things even more complicated, Connor and some of his unscrupulous associates are already under investigation for criminal activity by a Justice Department investigator named Samantha (Alysia Reiner).
Written by Amy Fox, Alysia Reiner, and Sarah Megan Thomas, and directed by Meera Menon, Equity refreshingly doesn’t follow the usual moralistic route, condemning capitalism, the stock market, and the banking industry, but focuses mostly on the uphill battles women in business face on a daily basis. On the women’s side of the story, these issues are mostly realistically portrayed, but on the men’s side of things, pretty much all of the men are portrayed as villains. I don’t particularly feel that is a fair representation of all men in the industry, but I do get that the filmmakers are attempting to make a point with some dramatic liberties. One particular liberty, however, took me out of the movie and annoyed me a bit.
The thing, to which I am referring, has to do with James Purefoy’s portrayal of Michael Connor. The character is not only written like a soap opera villain, but Purefoy also brings an overtly smug and conniving personality to the character. It plays out very melodramatically at times and feels out of place in a mostly astute film. This is probably the weakest aspect of the movie which prevents it from having a more profound impact on its audience.
On the positive end, I do have to say that the women in the film all offer solid performances with Anna Gunn and Alysia Reiner really standing out and shining in their roles. To be perfectly honest, I had not noticed actress Anna Gunn until I saw her amazing performances as Skyler White in the series Breaking Bad. When I first heard that she stars in this film, I was thrilled, and her acting never disappoints in it. She is the perfect actress cast in this role of a strong, no-nonsense, business woman who struggles, sometimes falters, but mostly remains undaunted in her quest for success.
As for Alysia Reiner, she first caught my attention and earned my respect as Natalie Figueroa on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. She also has a talent for portraying a hard-nosed and driven career woman, and her performance in this movie as Samantha is another example of her gift. The film also features a solid turn by Sarah Megan Thomas as Erin Manning, Naomi’s hungry and ambitious associate whose personal issues at home threaten to derail a career on the rise.
Despite a few problems I have with the script and the performance by one of the actors, I do have to hand it to Thomas, Reiner, and all of the women behind this film. It is an important movie that has never been made prior to this, and I think it is great that they have made it. As in the business world, women do deserve more respect and opportunities for success in filmmaking and acting. They also deserve roles that are realistically representative of who they are and not roles which solely focus on their physical attributes. The world needs more movies like Equity and Ghostbusters (2016 version) to allow women to express themselves in ways that have been denied to them previously