Until now, Leonardo DiCaprio’s lead role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” seemingly cemented him as the Wall Street genre’s most widely recognizable figure. However, “Equity,” starring Anna Gunn, has swiftly shifted the balance of power in this ever-expanding genre.
The second movie by director Meera Menon, whose 2013 directorial debut “Farah Goes Bang” received critical acclaim, “Equity” strives to reveal an alternative to the old archetype of Wall Street as a cutthroat boys club with its introduction of three compelling, fresh female leads. Naomi Bishop (Gunn) is a senior investment banker who has climbed up the corporate ladder through years of hard work and dedication. Shrewd and thorough, Bishop’s failed attempt to take a highly successful company public kicks off the movie.
Her right-hand woman Erin, played by Sarah Megan Thomas — who also wrote the film’s screenplay — struggles to strike a balance between her desire to advance herself professionally and her obligation to work for the greater good of the company. Meanwhile, Naomi’s friend from college, Samantha (Alyssa Reiner), tries to crack a corporate corruption case, coincidentally about the bank for which Naomi works. With Erin by her side and Samantha on her tail, the film bounces from woman to woman in an attempt to show the multifaceted definition of success for working women.
In a field dominated by men, Bishop unavoidably stands out. Due to her minority status in the workplace, she faces constant doubt and criticism that her male counterparts not only avoid but serve to perpetuate. In a business where numbers typically speak for themselves, Naomi finds herself defending her outfit choices instead of her research in a never-ending struggle to prove that the quality of her work is not innately tied to her gender.
While the movie casts Naomi as the fearless leading lady, the storylines of Erin and Samantha do a great deal in actually driving the plot forward. Naomi works as hard as she can for as long as she can, slowly moving the dial for herself — and, as a result, other professional women seeking successful careers — but even the toughest characters cannot go on forever.
While the wolves of Wall Street associate their monetary worth with credibility and status, a successful banker like Gunn’s character is viewed as a threat — a perversion of a sacred role previously exclusive to men. At one point, however, a student asks Naomi why she gets up every morning to do what she does. Naomi answers simply, “I like money.” The film’s progressive commentary on gender in the workplace is, in this case, overshadowed by its depiction of money as the great equalizer.
“Equity” successfully demonstrates realities that many professional women face every day. Through three different, equally dynamic characters, the film presents itself as a case study of success. By revealing the usually overlooked female role in a corporate setting, the film reveals harsh, behind-the-scenes struggles so many women face in the pursuit of success. The juxtaposition of both weak and sleazy male characters in the film begs the question, “Why are more women not given these opportunities?” With Gunn at the helm, the film does its best to demonstrate the constant, slow-moving cycle of progress for women in workplace.
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