The Wolf of Wall Street. The Big Short. Wall Street. These are some of the most well-known, successful Wall Street movies that have been created. But there's one major thing missing in all of these films: leading women.
Enter Equity. Not only does Equity, the latest Wall Street thriller, star three women (Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad, Alysia Reiner from Orange is the New Black, and Sarah Megan Thomas), it was also produced by women (Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas), directed by a woman (Meena Moran), and written by a woman (Amy Fox). Let that sink in.
The film is about a senior investment banker, Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn), who is an incredibly intelligent, experienced, and driven competitor in the world of finance. Her track record is nearly perfect: the film begins after her very first screw-up moment in finance. This ultimately causes her to be overlooked for a major promotion, when her boss dismisses her by saying, "You rub people the wrong way."
"What do you do as a human being and what do you do as a woman?" Gunn tells BUST. "I had one loss but I had 17 wins, why shouldn’t I get the promotion? I’ve been doing great all along, and the answer is so degrading and so dismissive. They [men] get praised for being really tough and strong and go-getters, whereas we still see that sometimes, in powerful women, it does something to the gender role perception."
Meanwhile, Naomi is working to win a deal with Cachet, an online social network where privacy as the most valuable commodity, aiming to take Cachet public and handle their IPO. This is not a simple task with their flirtatious and difficult leader, Ed (Samuel Roukin), who, of course, is in a casual hoodie the entire film. Naomi and Ed butt heads on more than one occasion.
"I’m much more interested in complex, difficult roles and people who might be perceived as difficult people," says Gunn. "It’s much more interesting. To me, playing the girlfriend or the one who’s the reactor to the man, they’re almost a set piece sometimes. It’s not interesting. Playing someone who’s going through a rocky road, a journey that takes twists and turns, where you do face moral conundrums, these choices where I could do that, continue to rise, but I don’t know that I can live with that and all those gray areas."
Naomi works closely with her subordinate, VP Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas), who is also an individually incredibly ambitious woman, despite the fact that her fortunes are tied to Naomi's. Naomi, whether knowingly or not, charms Ed, leaving Naomi frustrated. As she pushes to climb the ladder, she discovers that she is pregnant: a fate the women on Wall Street and women in the entertainment industry alike still often feel like they need to hide. This is very real. Reiner confided that she hid her pregnancy in multiple jobs out of fear.
Samantha Ryan (Alysia Reiner) is an old college friend of Naomi's who is a Justice Department investigator that has recently shifted her focus from narcotics to white collar crimes, investigating Wall Street finance. And this is where it gets juicy. Naomi continues to keep a wall up between her and Samantha, but this wall may be threatened by Michael Connor (James Purefoy), a broker from another division of Naomi's firm that deals with hedge funds.
The film proves to be the compelling thriller that Reiner and Thomas wanted it to be. It celebrates powerful women in an honest way: the three leading ladies are not afraid to admit that they want money and they aren't sorry about it either. No one is perfect, but they are honest. It celebrates intellectual women, something that Gunn has found rare in the entertainment industry.
"I was told in my 20’s and 30’s a lot you’re too sophisticated, and I kept trying to figure out what that meant. I thought, oh sophistication is a good thing, right? But it seemed to mean I was too smart or I was too strong or I was too tall," Gunn says.
It's a film Hollywood has been missing. It is a statement, and also a compelling piece of entertainment. You will be on the edge of your seat with popcorn in hand from beginning to end.
Not only is it an exciting thriller, Equity comes at a time where we seem to be surrounded by strong women. Especially considering we have one running for president.
"The fact that it relates to not just women in entertainment, but women in politics, women in Silicon Valley, and two years ago, when we were developing this idea, we knew that there would be a presidential election and we were hoping to be lucky enough to hook in this conversation with women in all different fields where they’re minorities," says Thomas.
Equity is the first project from Broad Street Pictures, Reiner and Thomas' company with the goal "to tell wildly entertaining and thought-provoking tales about brilliant women doing rad things." The two women decided to develop this company after they came up with the idea for a female-centered Wall Street film.
"It was like we got pregnant and then got married," says Reiner. They didn't do everything on their own, though. "So many people believed in us in along the way and it really does take a village and I feel so outrageously grateful to the village of women," says Reiner. "I do believe some of them are like in the heavens did help make this happen."
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