Equity online movie review - Anna Gunn Gives a Great Performance
When Breaking Bad (2008-2013) ended after an impressive run of unprecedented critical and cultural acclaim, something seemed to have been lost in the post-mourning debrief.
Brewing since season 2, throngs of fans came forward to proclaim Anna Gunn's Skyler White as among the most hated characters on TV ever. It got so bad that Gunn even wrote an op-ed in the New York Times defending Skyler. "I'm concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can't stand a woman who won't suffer silently or "stand by her man"? That they despise her because she won't back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter's equal?" she wrote.
I for one was a big fan of Skyler, as I was of all the familiar heroes and villains on that show. Her shrewish wife turned dark and corrupted equal was the kind of complex character arc as to be expected from the "best show on TV."
Naomi Bishop (Gunn) isn't corruptible in the first moments of Equity; she's already an insatiable crook. "I like money - like knowing I have it," she says with a Gordon Gekko matter-of-factness. Given her job, a Senior Investment Banker to a large firm, loving money is probably a prerequisite. Yet associates and CEOs looking to make their companies public agree, her ambition and cold demeanor "...rubs people the wrong way." Much like Skyler, Naomi is put in an impossible scenario, trying to make money for her bosses while unwilling to conform to certain expectations i.e. be motherly or coquettish. Its clear without it being explicit - no man would be put in her shoes.
Yet Equity is not a provocation, it tells the story straight, leaving the gender politics where it should be: in the analysis where it can cause more disruption. What we have instead is a high- stakes game of Russian roulette told with the same discursive simmer as Michael Clayton (2007). While some may find this tact prosaic, there's no doubting it feels real. Plus with the help of Naomi's hubris, we see the Jenga tower of her life weaken and teeter; much like any well made character study.
Helping in her demise are fellow women Erin (Thomas) and Samantha (Reiner). Unlike Naomi, Erin has long conformed to expectations and wears herself with a composed flirtatiousness that investors find reassuring. Her inner conflict, much like her outward appearance is showy but shallow in a "women can't have everything" kind of way. You'd think with screen time so evenly divided among Erin and Naomi, she'd be more interesting, but her moments only make the audience aware of how sluggish the editing is.
Samantha likewise creates a lot of grief for Naomi though thankfully none for the film. Samantha works for the District Attorneys Office and confidently sets her white-collar crime sniffing snout on Naomi's main squeeze, Michael Connor (Purefoy). Not only does she prove resourceful in a pinch, Samantha's natural likability proves an asset when she occasionally reveals too much. If she were, say, a supporting cast member on an HBO series, I'd watch.
The men of Equity fair just as well as supporting cast. James Purefoy exudes a certain smiley, understated nihilism while Craig Bierko is perfectly smarmy as Michael's hedge fund friend Benji. On the other hand poor Nate Corddry seems destined to play the helpless, baby- faced rube from now until he's old enough to play the suspect on Law and Order (1990-2010) spin-offs. He's okay I suppose but in a tank full of sharks, he's a bit of a guppy.
Equity is, when all is said and done, an actor's showcase for the refined Anna Gunn who not only leans into her unapologetic tigress routine but hints at deeper instincts and talents. Additionally, Equity is also a good movie written and directed by women, about women and for women. Its mere existence is an attack on patriarchy but not the full frontal kind. The kind that sneaks through the back door and right before slicing throats in the night says, "I'm better than you."