Any director trying to emulate David Fincher knows that they're almost certainly going to fall short. It's like he was created by a machine to be the perfect director. But falling short of perfection still means you have a chance of making a pretty damn impressive movie.
Take Equity. Director Meera Menon's Fincher fetish -- it especially takes inspiration from _The Social Network _-- is all over the screen. Not only are its score and cinematography nearly identical, but, as Social Network did with its rather famous tech start-up, it peels back the veneer of modern Wall Street to give a meticulous look at the inner-workings of a senior investment banker as corruption and greed take over her world.
Unfortunately, it lacks the panache or penetration to ever match Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's modern classic. But it's still very much its own beast, as it succeeds in its goal to show in detail how a promising start-up business can be both nurtured and sabotaged before it's put on the market.
Equity also prospers because of its femininity. But in the same way that its inspirations don't overwhelm its identity, and despite its mostly female cast, as well as its female director, producers (Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas), and writing team (written by Amy Fox, from a story by Thomas, Reiner and Fox), gender doesn't define the film.
Instead it allows it to thrive, and while the prevalent sexism that's invariably part of this world is an ever present, it's never focused upon. It's forever in background, an in the looks given to, flippant treatment, and second-guessing of its female character.
In Equity, Anna Gunn takes the lead role of Naomi Bishop, an investment banker who after she was thrown off her last company just days before it went onto the stock market looks to prove herself with her latest start-up, Cachet.
But the re-emergence of an old college friend Samantha (Alysia Reiner), who just happens to be a government agent that is looking to bust Naomi's lover Michael Connor (James Purefoy), teases that someone close to Naomi might be trying to sabotage and corrupt the company before it goes live in order to make a profit. And if that wasn't bad enough, Naomi struggles to keep control of her second in command Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) and Cachet's creator and CEO Ed (Samuel Roukin) as the days dwindle before it joins the stock market.
Equity throws a whole lot of financial, technical mumbo jumbo and information at its viewer, some of which it's hard to digest and easy to ignore. But, despite some dodgy dialogue, there's always just enough to stave off frustration, while its constant sinister, brooding tone does a good job of amping up the intrigue.
It's also helped by the fact that Equity possesses some truly compelling performances. While James Purefoy's purring, conniving Michael Conner is fun to behold as he sinisterly leers rather than loudly hissing his villainy, it's down to Anna Gunn to take the burden of the film.
Gunn seemingly uses the unwarranted online hate and vitriol that she received because of her portrayal of Skylar White in Breaking Bad to imbue her character. While Naomi is undoubtedly dogged in her professional pursuits, it's also adjoined to a subtle weariness, while she embodies the cold relentlessness, and desire to fight and win that comes with success in this world.
Unfortunately, a lack of narrative cohesion stalls Equity. Its various plots get muddled and are waylaid and bogged down by superfluous scenes, while its characters are ill-defined. Yet an original view point makes Equity feel fresh, vital and modern, and while there are better Wall Street movies out there, that's still enough to make it satisfying.