People love money. People love big money. People also love watching other people obsess, trip, and war over big money, on big screens.
Meera Menon’s latest film Equity focuses on the feminine world of Wall Street: a refreshing focus on the jaded subject of banking. Most films of the same genre—a genre that has recently experienced a revival of popularity in the last three years—seldom introduce female characters at all. The only female I can recall from big hits such as The Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short is Margot Robbie who happens to be in both, and she comes nothing close to a substantial, three dimensional character in either of those films. The women in Equity are surely complex enough.
The subject of this film not only proves once again our ever-growing interest in the happenings at the backstage of Wall Street, but also suggests the savagery that goes down in the business that is not just limited to the male gender. After the screening I asked my roommate, an investment banker, if women in the business were really as terrifying as they are portrayed in the film. The answer was a quick yes. They are indeed as merciless as their male colleagues.
Moviegoers started complaining that they were sick of seeing rich white men doing sick things to gain power and wealth in Wall Street; so producers Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas gave us rich white women who do the same exact thing as their male counterparts. But unfortunately for these women, although they have given up all their feminine softness to toughen up for the business, they still have a long road ahead in terms of gender equality. The glass ceiling stands as firm as ever, as Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) is consistently denied the promotion of a higher position with trivial excuses; while her female VP Erin (Sarah Thomas), feels threatened that Naomi will replace her after finding out about her pregnancy. It’s a vicious world in which women cannot and do not protect each other.
Camera angles are especially contributive in this film. Many times its angles and movement reflect our protagonist Naomi’s state of feeling: sometimes prideful and at times vulnerable. In the beginning of the film, she talks at a panel appropriately called, “City Women,” and she unashamedly expresses her love for power and money. In this scene, she is placed at the very center of the screen; she is sitting down in a chair, looking like a king at his throne. The camera zooms in and approaches her closer and closer, adding to her sense of self-importance. At this point in the movie, Naomi is indestructible.
However, what is a plot without the destruction of the indestructible? At the height of the film’s climax, in what seems like an unrecoverable fall for Naomi, the cameras swerve and angle themselves to mirror her sense of defeat. No spoilers here. The opening price for her investment project turns sour, and everything and everyone seem to have turned against her, including her love interest, childhood friend, and her VP. In a scene in the trading room when she realizes her loss of reputation as the “rain maker,” the camera literally looks down at Naomi from above her head, making her appear tiny and crushed.
Such aesthetic choices about the scene, and more about the brains behind the film are elaborated in our interview with director Menon and writer Fox.
In theaters, July 29, 2016.