From Gordon Gekko in Wall Street to the enterprising boys' club of The Big Short, financial world flicks have always been owned by men, were basically made for men, and definitely were made by men. Equity sets out to change that as a financial world thriller built from the ground up by talented women, starring talented women, and about women who are as good in their field as their male counterparts. And while it's great and definitely worthy to see this kind of project take shape, just having strong female characters isn't quite enough. These ladies have depth and are as devious and ambitious as any man, and certainly they are the main reason why this is a film worth investing your time in.
Because, to put it frankly, the corporate thriller aspects are leaden and dull like so many of these movies tend to be, the only difference is that now we're seeing them from a distinctly feminine perspective. It's the women in their power suits and high heels, facing the daily discrimination that so many women in real life face that are truly fascinating. If only the story could have been solely about them, because the performances are uniformly excellent. Anna Gunn, known for her tremendous work on Breaking Bad, brings the heat as Naomi Bishop, a senior investment banker fed up with the glass ceiling reserved for anybody who doesn't have a penis. She's a particularly fearsome customer; her icy glare and frustration can strike at men and women alike at a moment's notice. And Heaven forbid you try to give her a chocolate chip cookie with only a few chips. It could be career suicide. Naomi's most recent deal went bad in a very public way. For most men this can be brushed off, but for a woman it could be the end. She needs to bounce back, and decides going public with a hot IPO is the way to go. It could be huge, but when questions arise about its security, Naomi is forced to go on the offensive to control the message.
Equity refuses to conjure up excuses for its characters, or soften them because they are women. Sex is a weapon they use willingly, either as a tool or as a tease, but we also see the way it can negatively impact a woman's career. Naomi's protégé Erin (producer Sarah Megan Thomas, who also developed the story) has designs on her boss' job, but it could all go away in a flash if anyone learns her big secret: that she's pregnant. Meanwhile, Samantha (Orange is the New Black's Alysia Reiner, another producer and developer), an old friend of Naomi's, is a prosecutor unafraid to use her sexuality to lure information out of hapless male witnesses. They don't stand a chance. Is it a coincidence she's sniffing around just as Naomi is walking this high-wire act to save her career? Probably not.
The melodrama runs thick, too thick, and the stakes get lost as a result. Also, while nobody is really trustworthy in this corporate pit of vipers, men are almost comically so. James Purefoy plays sleazes his way through as Naomi's lover who is angling for some insider information, and Craig Bierko makes a memorably unsavory cameo as an investor you wish someone would slap in the face. Director Meera Menon, working from a cliché and analogy-heavy script by Amy Fox, captures the fearlessness and class of these women from the boardroom to the bedroom, while the costume designer deserves notice for recognizing how important fashion is in the corporate world. It's almost as important as money. Oh, who are we kidding? Nothing is as important as money. "Greed is good", and Equity makes sure everyone knows women are coming to get their piece, too, and probably some of yours.
Rating: 3 out of 5