Friday, July 29, 2016

“Equity”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new drama “Equity”, starring Anna Gunn. 


When an investment banker tries to turn her career around by launching a major technology IPO, can she succeed or will her enemies conspire to defeat her?


By all accounts, Naomi (Gunn) is one of the more successful investment bankers on Wall Street.  Over time, she has built a great career and her company has won the right to underwrite some major Initial Public Offerings of many start-up companies around the country.  So why is she unhappy?  Naomi is also an ambitious person and despite her many successes, there have been some sizable disappointments along the way, too.  Recently, one company’s historic IPO was underwritten by one of Naomi’s competitors, which has resulted in her being passed-over for what she felt was a long overdue promotion. 

An opportunity for redemption becomes available when a San Francisco-based technology company is seeking their own IPO and meets with Naomi to see what kind of evaluation they can get in their opening stock price.  Soon, it becomes apparent that she will have to put in an extra effort in order to win them over; that’s where her assistant Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) comes in.  The company’s CEO seems to have genuinely hit it off with Erin so Naomi does nothing to discourage this if it means they will win the account.  The only problem with this arrangement is Erin feels that Naomi has been intentionally holding her back in her career; now, this may be a chance for Erin to strike out on her own. 

Further complications develop when Naomi runs into Samantha (Alysia Reiner), an ex-schoolmate, who now works as a prosecutor in New York City.  When Samantha tries to re-connect, Naomi understandably believes that she’s interested in resuming their friendship; however, it soon becomes evident that Samantha has a different agenda – she’s trying to build a case against Michael (James Purefoy), Naomi’s boyfriend, whom she suspects of actively participating in various insider trading schemes.  Eventually, Naomi gets word that negative publicity about the company is being leaked by a disgruntled former employee.  Will this threaten the IPO and effectively ruin Naomi’s career or can something be done to somehow offset the misgivings investors may have?


It would be a facile review to describe “Equity” as a distaff version of “Wolf Of Wall Street”, especially because the two stories are so very different although they both center on the theme of Wall Street greed run rampant.  Also, “Equity” is in no way comedic and certainly doesn’t present Wall Street work as an enviable career choice.  What it does, however, is deftly deal with two themes simultaneously; not only is there the greed issue, but also the question about women’s role in it and exactly where and how they fit in the grand scheme. 

“Equity” is replete with good performances, led by Anna Gunn, whom “Breaking Bad” fans will delight in seeing this actress get her well-deserved time in the spotlight.  In a small but equally effective role is Lee Tergesen, whom “Oz” devotees will recall from that acclaimed HBO television show; here, Tergesen plays Naomi’s boss, who appears to be her nemesis, but is actually less her opponent than some other people who are much closer to her.  They effectively make the case that when you work in such a highly competitive environment, no one is your ally, not even your sisters. 

One criticism of “Equity” is its screenplay, which is a bit muddled; the direction also contributes to the confusion in the way its story is told.  Basically, the problem is that there are so many characters with so many subplots combined with different motivations for their actions, it can at times be difficult to follow why certain characters are doing what they are doing.  This results in one of those movies whose story you can only piece together once the film is concluded – not necessarily an insurmountable problem, but by doing so, the filmmakers are risking losing the audience well before the film’s conclusion. 

Equity (2016) on IMDb

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