As Paul Feig’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot enjoys its day in the sun at the center of an industry-wide push for more women in major Hollywood movies, the existence of smaller pictures like Equity—directed by, produced by, written by, and starring women—speaks to the power of the independent spirit. If no one’s listening, you must build a platform and shout, and the women behind Equity have done just that.
Whether intentional or happenstance, Equity feels hyper-aware of the way it handles its cast of female characters who would be, in the hands of a major studio, played by men. On the surface, it’s about a no-nonsense investment banker, Naomi (Anna Gunn), passed over by her boss for a promotion at her Wall Street firm following the messy mishandling of a high-profile account. Attempting to clear her name as a seemingly broken commodity amid an unforgiving industry, Naomi, along with her competitive VP, Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas), begins courting prospective start-ups, namely tech venture Cachet, the IPO of which proves to be more difficult to manage as Naomi takes the company public.
As Naomi comes to learn, there’s money to be made in sabotaging the sweet deal of an acquaintance, and Equity unfolds as a complex, stuffy mystery involving money, sex, and manipulation begat by—you guessed it—more manipulation. While that’s the bulk of the meat hanging from Equity‘s bones, its marrow feels like a calculated offshoot deviating from the male-driven films that came before it, pitting the most cunning she-wolves of Wall Street against each other not exploitatively, but rather to highlight the ruthless underbelly of what lies beneath the sheen of a business handshake, when a woman is placed under more scrutiny for the outfit she wears to a meeting than the knowledge she brings to the table.
Unfortunately, Equity sometimes buckles under the weight of its self-imposed, gendered duty. In attempting to say so much about women vs. women in a cutthroat industry, it paints itself almost too seriously, plodding along with far too many back-and-forths filled with industry jargon as if it needs to convince itself it’s serious enough to justify diving into the flashier dramatic bits (including a profanity-laced scene in which Naomi explodes over the number of chocolate chips in a cookie), where it undoubtedly shines brightest.
Still, seeing the names of so many women involved in the making of Equity splash across the screen during the credits—from director Meera Menon to each of the film’s 13 female producers—feels more important than the content. Regardless of how much you “like” the fruits of their labor, the worth of Equity‘s women is in their fearless identity, their ability to say what they have to say, however flawed the execution, from a creative space that wasn’t given to them, but one they took for themselves nonetheless. B-