In 1987, director and writer Oliver Stone made possibly the greatest movie about stock trading and investment banking ever made, Wall Street. In that film, Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a ruthless corporate raider who sees the world as a series of dollar signs up for grabs, a role that would earn him an Academy Award. In Wall Street, he delivers the line “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.” This is a long-winded speech to post within a review, I know, but its relevance is still felt today and in the new film Equity, it’s shown under a more feminine microscope.
I really love the film Wall Street and when Anna Gunn’s character is asked why she loves her job as a senior investment banker, I couldn’t help thinking about this quote. The answer that she gives is, and I’m paraphrasing, “I love money and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m glad we live in a world that women can be at this level of success and be comfortable. We’re at a time where we can have it so don’t let money be a dirty word.” Yes, not quite what Gordon Gekko had said but the ambition of this character and her drive would have fit in quite well with him, maybe better than Bud Fox’s did ultimately.
Equity is centered around Gunn as Naomi Bishop, whose last attempt at bringing a company to the stock exchange failed, due to her headstrong and perceivably abrasive style. She is a perfectionist with a never say die attitude that puts her at odds with her boss, Randall (Lee Tergeson), who says she “rubs people the wrong way” which you can read between the lines. Say that, at this point, it’s not her year for a promotion to the big role in the company, he puts her on a new IPO, launching an information sharing company called Cachet, led by an arrogant Brit in a gray hoodie, looking much like a nod to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg. Seeing this as a massive opportunity, Naomi enlists her up and coming protégé Erin, played by Sarah Megan Thomas, who looks like a mix of Girls actress Zosia Mamet and Sopranos alum Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
Naomi is also in a romantic relationship with one of the other men in her company, hedge fund banker Michael Connor, played by the usually slimy looking James Purefoy. While Naomi plays everything by the books and right to regulation, it’s more than obvious that Michael wants to peek over “the wall” and get some inside tips that would benefit his wallet greatly. To complicate Naomi’s life further, her brash attitude begins to put her at odds with her second in command Erin, who, dealing with her own personal problems, starts to make her own moves in the hopes of making her stand out as the winner when all the dust has settled. Within all of this is Naomi’s former best friend, a federal agent looking to make her mark with a big securities bust given the right information makes its way to her. It’s a story of ruthlessness, deception and the corruption of power but all told with very formidable women characters.
Anna Gunn absolutely rules this film, finally getting to channel some power herself in a lead role after great supporting characters in Breaking Bad and Deadwood. Of course, lots of the movie going public will still see her as Skylar White but I think her portrayal of Naomi Bishop will turn some heads. I didn’t feel overly impressed with any of the other performances in the film and I largely feel that James Purefoy is so pigeonholed as a sleazebag that you are unsurprised by any devious shift in character. Had it been a more “babyface” sort of actor in the role something like this could have been avoided but it’s just a typecast quality that this great British actor has been saddled with. Nobody saw Ironclad or Solomon Kane, so the valiant nature he can embody is never forefront in your mind.
The biggest issue with Equity is the feeling of inexperience that is strewed throughout the film. The movie feels very novice, in both the screenplay and its direction. Anna Gunn holds her own with Purefoy and Lee Tergesen but it’s evident how much more experience she has than any of the other actresses in this film. As far as this film breaks boundaries for women and puts them in a usually male driven genre that almost always puts them in the back seat, Equity fails to live up to the production standard of those movies. Had this been in the hands of a more established filmmaker, I believe this film could have carried far more weight and maybe would make more of a ripple. Because of this, I see Equity being largely forgotten as soon as it’s released. Even so, I give it a three out of five.