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Film review: EQUITY, from ‘Built For Speed’

Corporate drama Equity tries to be many things: a personal story about a merchant banker (Anna Gunn) trying pull off a major deal while coping with a past failure, an expose on the inequitable treatment of women in the business world and an insider trading drama. Consequently, the film hops from one story thread to another like an episode of one of those earnest Channel 10 politico/ legal dramas rather than a movie.

Gunn plays Naomi Bishop a hyper-motivated, workaholic merchant banker who specialises in ratcheting up share prices for companies about to go public. With her last major deal having fallen through she’s looking to re-establish her credibility and secure a position in her company’s upper echelons. The opportunity arrives in the form of a new social media company called Cachet which looks to earn her firm millions. The deal of a lifetime starts to turn sour, though, when questions emerge about Cachet’s security and when Naomi and her banker boyfriend come under scrutiny for insider trading.

Most of the individual story threads work: the attempt to pull off the Cachet deal captures the stresses and uncertainty of major business deals, the insider trading investigation by Naomi’s former college friend and now Attourney General’s Department lawyer Samantha (Alysia Reiner) is intriguing and the issue of sexism and the glass ceiling in the workplace is as relevant as ever. Still, the threads don’t coalesce into a convincing or compelling whole. They just sit there as detached parts of the story.

Also, the film suffers from dull production values, it looks like a TV show and adopts an oddly restrained and low-key tone. Too many scenes feel static, empty and strangely quiet as if sound design hadn’t been completed in post-production.

The film has one big advantage over recent finance industry dramas as it eschews the confusing, arcane industry language that made movies like The Big Short hard to follow for the uninitiated.

The film features a mixed bag of performances. Gunn convincingly portrays an experienced and driven corporate high flyer although she’s hampered by some odd dialogue including one scene in which she suddenly has a Falling Down-style outburst about an inadequate chocolate chip cookie. Some of the other characterisations are questionable and even unintentionally comical particularly Samuel Roukin as Cachet’s young, cartoonishly arrogant, slimy, hoodie wearing British CEO. Also, some of the hedge fund sleaze bags tied up in the insider trading scam look like they’ve stepped out of a cheap 90’s Wall Street knock off.

There’s also the matter of the film’s attitude to the corporate milieu and people’s motivations within it. The film makes a point of saying it’s ok for women in business to love making money and while no one should argue that it would fine for men and not alright for women to feel this way, are we really supposed to endorse someone’s capitalist greed, regardless of their gender?

There’s much to like about this film but for a movie with a title that suggests fairness and even handedness this is an oddly uneven movie that advocates a financial system that perpetuates inequalities.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Meera Menon.

Release date: 29th Sept 2016.

Running time: 100 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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