Equity tracks strong women in  tough workplaces

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Roxy Theatre
Opens Friday 9

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 down before breakfast.

Equity is a more nuanced and complex approach to the subject. Beyond the uneven acting and a couple of silly plot devices, we get a fully fleshed-out portrait of what it means to be a woman calling the shots, and the many additional challenges they must face compared to men.

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 loom, however. A deal once fell through because Naomi “rubs people the wrong way,” which is man-code for strong, assertive females. In addition, her stockbroker  boyfriend (James Purefoy, The Following) is being 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 sit 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 judgment. 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’s 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 out on top, and the resolution is more true-to-life than we’re used to. Turns out that Wall Street still has plenty of stories to tell, if we look for them through the eyes of women.