In the lead-up to the series finale of “Breaking Bad,” actress Anna Gunn penned an essay for The New York Times entitled “I Have a Character Issue.” In it, she said the following about fan reactions to her character, Skyler White: “My character […] has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.”
Gunn’s role in the new film “Equity” represents a feature-length doubling down on this curiosity about how American society views powerful women. As high-powered Wall Street banker Naomi Bishop, she continues probing the perils of feminine assertiveness in the workplace. She must deal with the continued frustration of being judged on her reputation, not by her results. Virtually every move she makes entails a dual calculation – first on her professional instincts, and then on how the powerful men around her will perceive it.
Virtually every scene of Meera Menon’s has this built in conflict perspective about women in business. Be it Naomi, her newly expectant underling Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) who reluctantly draws power from her seductive wiles, or the ruthlessly committed attorney Samantha (Alysia Reiner) on their trail, no female is exempt from feeling the weight of the patriarchal power system. At certain points, the existing dynamic even pits apparent allies against each other.
“Equity” gets monotonous at times due to its unilateral interpretation of events, but the perspective remains so underrepresented that it never becomes tedious. Menon never opts for the easy resolution of any situation, even ending on a harshly cynical note to make her points. With Gunn bringing her own experiences to the table, however, the film adds a level of informed, impassioned weight that elevates invective to the level of a great discussion generator. B /