8-14 September 2017 #875

Equity

A film about Wall Street, naked ambition, passion, hard work, betrayal and one woman’s grasp on her own integrity as things start to fall apart.
Sophia Pande

Equity” is a film that I’ve been saving for a fallow period — a time when there’s nothing in the theatre aside from Baby Driver, which I am betting is probably okay watching at home on your sofa, and a third-rate horror movie that doesn’t really bear any mentioning.

Directed by Indian-American director Meera Menon, daughter of film producer Vijayan Menon, Equity is a 2016 film about Wall Street, naked ambition, passion, hard work, betrayal and one woman’s grasp on her own integrity as things start to fall apart.

Anna Gunn plays Naomi Bishop, a high-ranking investment banker who has succeeded more than she has failed. Only a chair away from the top position in her firm, Naomi is hindered only by her straight-talking personality and the fact that she wears heels instead of brogues. She is cool, smart, determined, and her story is as much a character study as it is an indictment of capitalism (at its worst) — namely the people who make their living playing the stock market and insider trading.

When Naomi lands a coveted account: an initial public offering (IPO) for Cachet, a Facebook-like entity that guarantees a secure closed network, she knows it is her chance to the top. She does her job well but is betrayed at every turn, and the result is a nail-biting film that never loses its focus, which is Bishop herself, played in an unforgettable performance by Gunn.

Other characters have important roles in the film, but the surprising thing about Equity is its dual message. While it seems to be a film made by women about women surrounded by glass ceilings, it is also another, sharply insightful, look at the cost of living in an amoral environment, no matter how smart and hardworking you are. Gunn plays it straight, though everyone around her has an agenda.

The film, written without sentiment but with knowledge of the context, portrays the luxurious world of high-powered investment bankers so that we know what’s at stake: extreme comfort, status, handling huge sums of money, and the intoxicating effect of learning how to best the smartest at their mind games.

It is refreshing to see a story told without an enormous ego behind the camera. This is almost a quiet story, but it is a must see for anyone who likes a really good thriller and spending a few hours in the life of a woman who we grow to care for despite her prickly, distrustful exterior. As we learn more about her, we realise that she is kind, good and has a hearty laugh.

The resemblance of Gunn’s character, Naomi Bishop, to Hillary Clinton is striking, and for those who have believed in Hillary all along, like this writer, you will feel the familiar, overwhelming despair at seeing a strong woman brought to her knees by a world that only looks at her stiff outer shell and judges her for her profession. This scrutiny discards her years of hard work to get where she is now — the equity never paid off.

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