Lonely At The Top

A less-clichéd  look at the woman in charge trope

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Equity
RPL Film Theatre
Oct. 14-16
3.5 out of 5

Most films about female empowerment in the workplace fall in two categories. There are the Working Girl-types, in which an underling rises through the ranks out of innate talent and pluckiness, and The Devil Wears Prada-sorts, which depict women in positions of power as dragon ladies ready to chew you up and spit you out.

Equity is a more nuanced approach to the subject. Beyond the uneven acting and a couple of silly plot devices, it’s a solid portrait of what it means to be a woman calling the shots, and the many additional challenges women must face compared to male cohorts.

Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad’s unsung hero) is Naomi, an investment banker on the verge of closing a multimillion dollar deal with a tech startup. A number of threats hover above her: a past transaction fell through because Naomi “rubs people the wrong way”, which is male code for strong, assertive female. In addition, her boyfriend (James Purefoy, The Following) is a stockbroker investigated by the justice department for insider training.

The cherry on top is Naomi’s ethically-challenged assistant, who is biting at her heels for a seat at the big table.

Written, produced and directed by women, Equity goes beyond the “having it all” cliché. Family plays a role, but is just a portion of the challenges the leads must face. Naomi has chosen career over children and nobody passes judgement, even though she can’t help wondering about the path not taken. The Equity universe is one in which there aren’t obvious answers and doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily guarantee victory.

Director Meera Menon (formerly a CNN producer) juggles the interlocking plotlines competently, without losing sight of her characters. Equity is a feminist film, but only to a degree: There is a strong suggestion that women don’t play well with others in a high-stakes environment.

In Equity it’s never clear who will come up on top and the resolution is more true to life than we are used to. Turns out that through the female gaze, Wall Street still has plenty of stories to tell.