A female investment banker, fighting to rise to the top of the corporate ladder at a competitive Wall Street firm, navigates a controversial tech IPO in the post-financial crisis world, where loyalties are suspect, regulations are tight, but pressure to bring in "big money" remains high. Equity is about women on Wall Street. It's a Wall Street drama, but it's not about corruption, crime, or catastrophe. It's about women who thrive on competition and ambition, deals and strategy, but who must carefully calibrate every aspect of their lives, professional and private, to stay equal in the game. Equity is directed, written, produced, and financed by women, a collaboration among women in entertainment and business leaders in finance—the real-life women of Wall Street—who chose to invest in this film because they wanted to see their story told.
There's no denying recent trends in entertainment. Over the years, Hollywood has had a bit of a PC PR nightmare with the casting of its films. With few roles for women and people of various ethnicities, films have been dominated by the white male demographic. While there are some films that manage to buck trends and provide a more accurate cross-section of society, the overwhelming majority fail to even try due to simple economics: movies are expensive and have to be bankable. The more risky a project, the more bankable the cast must be. Right now, a nearly all female fronted cast written and directed by women is a novelty and not a normal occurrence - making it a bit of an exciting time when one such film reaches theater screens. However, when all of that amazing talent is assembled to tell the story of something so mundane and predictable as the one featured in 'Equity,' one can't help but feel like an opportunity has been wasted.
Investment banking is a cut-throat industry to find oneself in. It's especially difficult when it's effectively an all-boys-club and any women are considered outsiders - no matter how talented they may be. One such woman is venture capitalist Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn). She's the best at her business. Man or woman, few can hold a candle to her cunning and marketplace instinct. So when her last IPO went belly-up, it hit especially hard. Now her boss Randall (Lee Tergesen) wonders if Naomi's got the stuff to keep her career afloat and replace him when he retires. With a new opportunity on the horizon, Naomi must prove all over again she has what it takes to lead the boardroom. Unfortunately, her occasional lover Michael (James Purefoy) has been dealing her trade secrets to a financial market blogger making Naomi look like an inside trader to a DOJ investigator (Alysia Reiner). If that wasn't bad enough, Naomi must fend off the aspirations of her ambitious assistant Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) who is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
The problem 'Equity' faces is that it is just plain uninteresting. It's a story that's been seen and done countless times over the last couple decades. From 'Wall Street' to 'Boiler Room' to 'Wolf of Wall Street,' the financial marketplace and banking scene has been used as an allegory for the times we live in. If you have a soul and are a good person at heart, you simply don't belong because the money-grubbing sharks will eat you alive. It doesn't matter if you're a man or woman in these films, the perception is pretty universal. The failing with 'Equity' is that it doesn't do anything new or interesting with the material. It's the same package with a female dominated cast and crew.
Every now and again there are interesting little flashes of material where the film is trying to explore an idea about rich and powerful women. The perception is that in order to be a woman of power you have to forgo anything feminine or the hope of having a happy home life with kids. As Sarah Megan Thomas's Erin is pregnant, she's constantly putting her husband at a distance even going so far to take calls during her ultrasounds. Meanwhile, Naomi is questioning everything she gave up for her career and even asks if her mentor played by James Naughton would have fired her if she had gotten pregnant. These are interesting themes and ideas that are very relevant in the face of all the debate over maternity leave rights and child care access. But the film doesn't really explore these notions beyond the surface mention. Instead, the film quickly follows the rote routine of a scumbag significant other betraying the main character for a hot tip and the hotshot investigator who will take them all down.
Written by Amy Fox and Directed by Meera Menon, I was excited about 'Equity' when I first heard about it precisely because it was a film written by, directed by, and starring women surrounding a predominately male dominated industry. I was curious to see where they could go with the material as there is tons of real-life material out there to draw from, something along the lines of the rise of Carly Fiorina as an example would have been interesting and relevant to current times. Unfortunately, the routine thriller we've already seen a dozen times is what came of it. This isn't to say that 'Equity' is boring altogether, it's not, but it isn't exciting either. Instead of rising above the traditional plot playbook that so many male-driven films of this genre have offered, 'Equity' more or less runs the same plays so there aren't any real surprises or character turns. From the get go you have a pretty clear idea where this film is going and that is the real failing of this film. It just doesn't do anything new when it had the perfect springboard to do so.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Equity' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures and is pressed onto a Region Free BD-50 disc. The disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Sony Pictures releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
'Equity' comes packed with a dark-yet-beautiful 1.85:1 1080p transfer. I say dark because a lot of the back office dealings take place at night in dimly-lit offices and swanky restaurants - and looks gorgeous through it all. Detail levels never falter and the film's chic-drab color scheme of dark suits with subtle color flourishes looks great. Flesh tones maintain a nature hue to them while there are minimal, but purposeful use of primaries. Black levels are thick and inky without nay crush issues or troubles allowing the image to maintain a terrific sense of depth and dimension. The only issue of note is some odd instances of softness during a couple of scenes, but they're so slight that one may not even notice. All in all, this is a pretty terrific looking Blu-ray.
With an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, 'Equity' scores some big points. The film is a very quiet conversationally-driven film and as such, the dialogue does most of the heavy lifting. Thankfully the dialogue is clean and clear throughout without any issues. Sound effects may seem a bit subdued, but at the same time, they provide a terrific sense of ambiance and spatial sense - especially in restaurant or club scenes. The score by Alexis & Sam provides a nice sense of LFE dissonance that keeps the audio unnerving yet still engaging. All around this is a great audio presentation that fits the nature of this film perfectly.
Girl Gang: The Equity of Empowerment: (HD 8:31) This is an interesting if alto brief cross section of the female producers and investors involved with the film. There's not a lot here, but it's interesting material just the same.
Grey Lines: The Making of 'Equity': (HD 14:17) This is a pretty by the numbers EPK style feature with the cast and crew talking about the themes of the film, the characters, writing the story etc.
LA Film Fest Q&A: (HD 16:03) Anna Gunn, Alysia Reiner, Meera Menon, Samuel Roukin, and Sarah Megan Thomas discuss the film, their characters, what they learned about the financial industry and so forth. There's some good stuff here, I kinda wish this had been longer or if some of these people had been available to do a commentary track.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:07)
'Equity' easily could have been something great and exciting to write about. It showcases an amazing array of talent in front of the camera, as well as behind it. The fact that it happens to be lead by women is also cause for some of that excitement. Unfortunately, a generic story weighs down what could easily have been a great little financial thriller. Sony Pictures brings 'Equity' to Blu-ray in fine order with a terrific A/V presentation and some decent extra features. 'Equity' may be far from perfect, but it's still very watchable. At the very least, 'Equity' is worth a look.