eq·ui·ty – ˈekwədē/ (noun)
- the quality of being fair and impartial.
- the value of the shares issued by a company.
Now substitute the word equity for greed, and this iconic Wall Street speech becomes:
It’s exhilarating to watch Meera Menon’s financial-crisis drama Equity go toe to toe with the patriarchal ghosts of Gordon Gekko and The Wolf Of Wall Street — by not only flipping the script, but by rewiring its molecules on a core level.
Channeling both Steven Soderbergh & David Fincher in style and flow, Equity quickly outgrows its most obvious inspirations even as it pays homage.
This is because director Menon (Farah Goes Bang) & writer Amy Fox (Heights) do a very smart thing early on: instead of just mirroring these male auteurs (an elusive task within itself), they go one step further – reaching through the looking glass and establishing something new and different on the other side.
And that sensibility – that freshness – it all comes from the same place: matching two X chromosomes together and not worrying so much about Y
Starring Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn as a high-powered investment banker, Equity producers Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas also artfully double as Gunn’s co-stars, forming an astonishing female power-triumvirate that dominates the film’s action.
This is a cinema where women are in the driver’s seat; not just as supporting characters – not just as main characters – but as impactful players in ALL the leading roles and storylines (a film unapologetically produced, directed and written by women).
And not a minute too soon. Think of this film as one of the first movies of the Hillary Era. Is it perfect? No it isn’t (but then, who or what actually is?). Focusing an exacting female lens on all that it surveys, it is this crispness of point-of-view that continually astounds and rewards, sometimes as much (or more) than the actual story itself.
It’s quite something, this balancing act of groundbreaking/commercial female art and Wall Street financial thriller; but, Menon and her cinematographer Eric Lin and composers Alexis & Sam are up to the task, painting an ultra modern Manhattan full of jittery mise-en-scène and the addictive color(s) of money.
It’s a vibe that won’t soon leave your head, these She-Wolves of Wall Street navigating both the treacherous landscapes of real-day Manhattan (where females still make up a small percentage of investment bankers and executives) and the Hollywood movie machine (where women make up an even lower percentage of power players).
Gunn’s Naomi Bishop, in a fierce, nuanced star turn, leads the way on screen. Her Naomi is a veteran of venture capitalism, dotcoms & IPOs, formidable and whip-smart, a star – except for the dirty little fact that she’s missing that aforementioned Y chromosome.
Reiner (Orange Is The New Black), who plays a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office, gets a full, juicy storyline all to herself – she’s a lesbian trying to support her two young children and artist wife, all the while going deeper undercover to sniff out the bad guys roaming lower Manhattan.
Thomas (who also has a “story by” credit), in perhaps the most complex role of all, plays Bishop’s frustrated assistant Erin – an elastic, engrossing stand-in for both female glass ceilings and confusing sexual/feminine messaging still present and thriving in the 21st century.
These three storylines all converge around the launch of a buzzy new IPO called Cachet, complete with a bro’d up Zuckerberg-like ingenue, a dark tale of insider trading and betrayal, and a deep dive into the zeitgeist of privacy issues and broken social/emotional contracts.
Quite possibly there are too many stories going on – and sometimes the exposition can get a bit heavy and/or cliche – but these are minor concerns in an otherwise stellar portfolio.
Expertly acted – and, yes, there are men in this film too (they’re just appropriately regulated to the sidelines for the most part) – Equity is an important film that very clearly has its finger on the pulse of America right now, and our collective desire (whether we are conscious of it or not) of seeing/acknowledging more women in front of the camera… and behind it. And on Wall Street, in government, running corporations, owning companies, overseeing studios – and, yes: on our MONEY (which serves as a combustible proxy throughout Equity for power, respect, and – above all – equality) .
As Naomi says several times, most arrestingly directly into camera, “Don’t let money be a dirty word.”