“Wall Street,” the 1987 Michael Douglas film, proclaimed “Greed is good.” “Equity,” the latest film to look at the ins and outs of Wall Street, takes that proclamation one step further by showing that greed is equally good for women.
“Equity” also re-enforces that living on the financial edge of buying and selling stocks can be just as dangerous for any sex.
Playing the deadly game of stocks and bonds is senior investment bank Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn). She had a flawless record at the brokerage where she works until her last deal went bad in a major way. For the first time, the financial wizard can’t hide the few lines of doubt in her deal-making armor.
That’s why Bishop needs to make sure the deal to take an online privacy company public goes off without a hitch. She wants to regain the faith her bosses once had in her. One failure on Wall Street is a major red flag, two is a death sentence.
The problem is that Bishop can’t completely control all of the pawns working on the same deal, especially Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas), an underling who is clawing so hard to get to the top her fingertips are bleeding.
Writer Amy Fox manages to find a nice balance between the financial and personal stories. That’s not easy because of the high standards set by films films like “Wall Street” or “The Big Short.” A certain amount of explanation of the process is necessary, but too much can put a drain on the production.
It helps that Gunn makes the personal matters so compelling. She can be strong when necessary, but she also shows a softer side. There is a veil of sadness that covers the character – revealed in small snippets, such as when she laments to only having a fish instead of a child.
Gunn takes that layer of sadness and blends it in with the strength she shows as a boss and the softness she lets through when alone with her lover. She makes the character emotionally rich.
James Purefoy is equally good as the object of her office romance. He’s perfected the role of cad and takes it to a higher level here, showing that greed is good even if it means breaking a heart.
The weakest link is the story is establishing the motivation for Manning’s back-stabbing moves. Fox never makes it clear why Manning turns so abruptly. It’s not enough to suggest her reasons are based in the fact she’s struggling to earn respect in the office and with clients. There needs to be more.
Fox does make a mistake in having Manning be pregnant. While it’s never mentioned that her mixed-up hormones could be a culprit in what happens, there’s always that possibility looming. No male version of this story would ever have to worry about such association.
The biggest problem with “Equity” is that it’s a little too polite. Reactions to major events are treated with so much calm that the dramatic elements become diluted. A few more emotional eruptions seem in order. Part of that comes from Gunn, who tends to play characters from the inside out. She’s at her best playing those who are emotionally guarded. A little more externalizing is not always a bad thing.
But that guardedness doesn’t break the bank for “Equity.” The “greed is good” element is at the heart of this story, it’s just has a quieter pace.
Cast: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Craig Bierko, Samuel Roukin
Director: Meera Menon
Rating: R (language)
Opens: Friday, Aug. 26