Equity (R) ★★½

Equity. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Equity. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

A compelling financial thriller, but still not the “women on Wall Street” film I was hoping for.

As possibly the only film critic in the world who has two business degrees, used to work in the financial services industry, has been through tech IPOs and also happens to be female, I approached Equity with great interest. There have been several memorable financial thrillers over the years, but I can’t recall any that were directed by a woman, written by women, produced and financed by women and revolved around female characters.

Equity kicks off by introducing us to Naomi Bishop (the always fantastic Anna Gunn), a seasoned investment banker who’s reeling from being blamed for screwing up the deal of the decade. Now she’s desperate to rebuild her once-sterling reputation by landing the IPO for the Next Big Thing, an online privacy firm called Cachet. Naomi often relies on a younger and equally ambitious banker, Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas, who also helped develop the story), who may or may not have her own All About Eve-ish agenda.

The problems pile up quickly: Cachet has disgruntled employees who might want to throw the company under the bus. Cachet’s CEO is an arrogant tool. Naomi’s boyfriend Michael (James Purefoy) is being pressured by his hedge fund buddies to get insider intel about the Cachet IPO. Naomi’s old college friend Samantha (Orange is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner) is now investigating sketchy Wall Streeters (like Michael!) on behalf of the U.S. government. The cast is excellent, the plot is easy to follow (but still intriguing to those who understand the industry), and I found nearly every single thing about the film to be completely realistic. The problem is that even if every single thing a film portrays is realistic, it still doesn’t mean that those things should all be in the same film together.

Equity would have been a better movie if director Meera Menon and screenwriter Amy Fox had focused more tightly on the two main storylines: whether or not Naomi and Erin can land Cachet and successfully launch its IPO, and whether or not Stephanie’s hunch about Michael is correct. Then it would’ve been a financial thriller where three women just so happen to be the main characters. Instead, I felt like Menon and Fox went overboard in trying to cram in every sort of female issue or perspective possible. Granted, they did it quite subtly at times and I don’t think it was ever so in-your-face that a male moviegoer wouldn’t enjoy the film overall, but I personally was disappointed by the end.

Here’s just an off-the-top-of-my-head list of what I’m talking about: there were several different scenes revolving around pregnancy (a woman trying to cover up her pregnancy, then needing to confirm it, then feeling conflicted about it, then considering how it might affect her career, and then that woman’s boss wondering if she should still promote her despite the pregnancy), women having to deal with clients hitting on them, women using their sexuality in their jobs, a woman talking about how her success may threaten certain men, a lesbian couple with kids, women telling other women it’s OK to like money even though they’re women, and—my personal favorite—a powerful woman turning to chocolate in a moment of great stress.

Again, absolutely all of these things happen in the real world and were realistic as portrayed, as was all of the corporate drama leading up to Cachet’s IPO. Yet I couldn’t help but suspect that Menon and Fox must have felt like this was their one chance to surface every issue they could think of relating to being a woman on Wall Street (or just in general), and for me, it took away from the rest of the film.

The Bottom-Line? If you usually enjoy financial thrillers, chances are you will also like Equity and will appreciate its fresh take on Wall Street’s antics (even if it overdoes it with “the female angle” at times).

Cast: Anna Gun (Naomi Bishop), James Purefoy (Michael Connor), Alysia Reiner (Samantha), Sarah Megan Thomas (Erin Manning)

Credits: Directed by Meera Menon; written by Amy Fox

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Erika Olson © August 12, 2016