By Chaz Lipp
Densely plotted but only serviceably acted, Equity is a Wall Street-based financial drama with a specific hook: it’s about women, and made by women. Director Meera Menon and screenwriter Amy Fox present Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) with a strong leading role as Naomi Bishop, a senior investment banker. She’s every bit as ruthless as her male counterparts who dominate the world of finance. Right from the outset, speaking at a conference for emerging female investors, Naomi makes her love of money plain. Gunn delivers strong work, though it’s tempting to overpraise based on the much lower standards set by the supporting cast.
The main problem with Equity isn’t its plot, which tracks Naomi as she plans the IPO for an internet security firm called Cachet that’s expected to make a lot of folks very wealthy, it’s the overall made-for-TV vibe. The backstabbing, who’s-playing-who story might not be especially gripping for those not already interested in Wall Street shenanigans, but it moves forward at a steady (albeit dry) clip. Naomi risks spilling secrets by sleeping with Michael (James Purefoy), who works at a competing firm and has a keen interest in Cachet.
Despite her generally strong track record, Naomi’s boss won’t let her live down a recent botched IPO she headed up. Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas), Naomi’s VP, has an agenda of her own and—despite being married and pregnant—isn’t above stepping out with Cachet’s CEO Ed (Samuel Roukin). Meanwhile, Naomi’s old friend Samantha (Alysia Reiner, Orange Is the New Black), a Justice Department investigator supporting her family on a comparatively paltry salary, is snooping around for hints of insider trading. That’s a lot of intertwining threads and screenwriter Fox (following up her 2005 Merchant-Ivory production Heights) lays them out well.
But aside from Gunn fiery portrayal, Equity is regularly deflated by a supporting ensemble that feels perfunctory at best and downright uncomfortable in their roles at worst. It’s like watching a play in which everyone (excepting the lead) has been replaced by understudies. And while Fox’s screenplay is rich in plot, it’s a bit deficient in character. Gunn might’ve been even better had she been allowed to show more of Naomi’s inner life. We know Naomi loves making money. We know she craves the respect of her peers, both male and female. But Equity doesn’t show us what really makes her tick.
Equity Images: Sony Pictures Classics