I HATED The Wolf of Wall Street. I tried, okay? I worked hard to turn off my feminist brain through the onslaught of frat-boy wish fulfillment and gleeful, unexamined misogyny, but by the time the marital rape scene rolled around, I realized my efforts weren’t going to be rewarded. I thought maybe it was a good movie, just not for me, but I genuinely couldn’t tell—until I saw Meera Menon’s new film, Equity, and realized that I’d been right all along, because if you really want to tell a classic tale of the fall of a great man on Wall Street, it shouldn’t be about a man at all. It should be about a woman.
In Equity, that woman is ruthless investment banker Naomi Bishop, played with quiet fury and subtle humor by Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, who seems like she’s enjoying finally getting to portray a morally ambiguous, complex character after thanklessly foiling Bryan Cranston for so long. If you love smart, flawed, calculating women characters—think Homeland’s Carrie Mathison, How to Get Away with Murder’s Annalise Keating, any of the women on House of Cards—this is your movie. Naomi’s one of many complex, pragmatic women making their way through the corrupt world depicted in Equity. Sarah Megan Thomas and Orange Is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner both put in strong turns as, respectively, Naomi’s right-hand woman and the prosecutor investigating Naomi’s firm for possible corruption.
Equity stands alone, but it also reveals how low-impact, how barely-trying movies like Wolf of Wall Street really are. Oh, you got in trouble for the first time in your life and had to go to summer-camp jail but you’ll probably be fine? That’s no ancient tragedy. That’s a boring installment in the ongoing saga of White Men Getting Away with Stuff. I mean there’s something tragic in there, but it’s not new.
Because the workplace is far more punishing for women as a general, shitty rule, Equity is more inherently dramatic than those other movies.
Naomi—like so many women who work in male-dominated industries—has had to work harder and be better than her peers to get to where she is. She’s made bigger sacrifices. She’s more likely to be stabbed in the back by male colleagues. This means she has more to lose. She has further to fall.
We call those stakes, sirs. Even better, they’re rooted in reality, making Naomi’s story an allegory for the way female ambition is punished at every strata of the working world. It’s not fair. But it’s real. And compared to privileged white men facing fleeting consequences, it’s much more interesting to watch.