'Equity' pits women's empowerment against money. Guess who wins.

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Equity isn't your traditional Wall Street story.

This film isn't about decadence—the chicks-coke-cars trifecta that dominates most Wall Street movies is conspicuously absent.

And there are no charismatic psychopaths, either. Instead, there are women with backbones of steel, functioning in a pitiless environment where money is the only barometer of morality.

Women drive the story, but there are many scenes that reinforce the idea that Wall Street is a man's world. From the overwhelmingly male trading floor to luxe hotel lounges and posh bars, the opulent decor is fueled by mind-numbing amounts of money earned primarily by men.


The three women helming the film—which I saw at at the Sundance Film Festival this week—know they are rare and know they are all playing in a world that would prefer to shut them out. Senior investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) made a high-profile mistake that haunts her as she prepares to take social privacy network Cachet to its initial public offering. Her junior S.V.P. Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas) is hiding her pregnancy as she's gunning for a promotion.  Naomi's old friend, the newly minted U.S. Attorney's office prosecutor Samantha (Alysia Reiner), emerges with an investigation that hits a little too close to home.

The choices they face are painfully familiar to working women. At one point, Erin stares at Anne Marie Slaughter's Atlantic cover story "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" before being distracted by another notice of layoffs at the firm. In hiding her pregnancy, she goes as far as to swap her martinis for water in the women's bathroom. In another revealing scene, Naomi correctly predicts a Cachet's founder, the Mark Zuckerbergesque Ed (Samuel Roukin) will hit on Erin before it happens.


But, in the end, Equity isn't a tale of women's empowerment. The financial world is nasty and cutthroat, and having female leads doesn't change that. Money is too strong of a force to keep the characters both strong and righteous. The end of the film is unsettling, unfair and horrifyingly true to life.