We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
“Equity'"s main claim to fame is that it’s the first female-dominated depiction of the cutthroat dealings that define greed-is-good, ethics-are-overrated Wall Street. Given that most movies with plots revolving around the high-stakes financial world tend to slot women into peripheral roles—think Daryl Hannah as yuppie eye candy in “Wall Street” or Margot Robbie explaining the ins and outs of sub-prime mortgages while cavorting in a bubble bath in “The Big Short”—any upgrade in gender representation would be an improvement. I can think of just one stock-market-related showcase of recent vintage, where an actress was allowed to have the same impact as her numerous masculine counterparts, and that would be Demi Moore in the well-received yet underseen “Margin Call.”
But “Equity” goes a step further by allowing women to call the shots behind the camera as well. One glance at the credits reveals that this drama, about a veteran investment banker (played by Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad”) who wages a fight to maintain her high-level professional status, boasts an admirable commitment to recruiting members of the consistently under-employed cinematic sisterhood. Meera Menon (Tribeca award winner for “Farah Goes Bang”) directed and Amy Fox (“Heights”) wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Sarah Megan Thomas. And two of the film’s stars—Alysia Reiner (fiendish assistant warden Fig on “Orange Is the New Black”) and Thomas—are producers as well as the co-founders of Broad Street Pictures, a company dedicated to telling stories from a female perspective, starting with “Equity.”
Being a woman who deeply cares about how we are portrayed in popular culture, I naturally have a rooting interest in “Equity.” And, initially, the film does many things right. Gunn’s Naomi, for one, is an eminently watchable if atypical heroine. She’s a sleekly attractive 40-something, with a figure that befits her age and the determined eyes of a tigress as she takes out her workplace frustrations on a punching bag at the gym.
Screenwriter Amy Fox wisely gives Naomi a Gordon Gekko-like defining speech early on when she speaks at a career-mentoring event for women. When a moderator asks, “What gets you up in the morning?” she candidly responds: “I like money—like knowing I have it.” She acknowledges her family’s cash flow problems while growing up and the fact that she helped her younger brothers pay for college. But she also adds, unapologetically, “It is OK to do it for ourselves—for how it makes us feel. Secure, yeah. Powerful, absolutely.” Her final suggestion: “Don’t let money be a dirty word.”