Near the beginning of director Meera Menon’s indie Wall Street thriller, investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) makes a confession to a roomful of aspiring business women: she likes likes money, and, even more, she likes the power that comes with money. The problem with this disclosure is not that Naomi is a woman making this statement; it’s that there’s little evidence in the screenplay, written by playwright Amy Fox, that she is capable of exerting the type of ambition she lays claim to.
Make no mistake, it’s a far better movie for avoiding the expected one-for-one swap with Wall Street’s cutthroat Gordon Gekko. This summer audiences were already exposed to a more blatant and gimmicky gender swap with Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters and responded proportionally—once they’d actually seen it—to its inability to justify itself as a remake. And unlike the scripts that were changed by simply finding and replacing “he” for “she,” such as the Sandra Bullock vehicle “Our Brand Is Crisis,” this is still Naomi’s story. Well, sort of.
With only a lone beta fish as a true companion, Naomi adheres to the strict rules of corporate-friendly faux feminism most recently propagated by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. She doesn’t even try to have it all, preferring to lean in rather than rock the boat, or, since this is Wall Street after all, break through the glass ceiling by breaking through the Chinese wall between her own investments and the deals made by boyfriend, Michael (James Purefoy), a broker at the same firm whose similarity to the Kool-Aid man (breaking through whatever wall he can to secure a sure thing) puts him under the scrutiny of Samantha Ryan (Alysia Reiner), a former college classmate of Naomi’s now investigating white-collar crime as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office.
When Naomi is reluctant to over-promise on the worth of a company preparing to go public, her righthand person Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas)—more confident and more stylish than her mentor—steps up. But soon enough, she too is thwarted by the biases against women in a male-dominated field, though her response to it is much different than Naomi’s.
Thomas and Reiner developed the story with Fox, and both produced. Even without celebrity cameos, the action is easy to follow. In some scenes, exposition makes it a little too easy, and causes the narrative to stall. Performances, too, slow down the pace when it should be building. It’s almost as if Menon has asked all the actors to deliver each line with an emphasis that, no mater how mundane, when combined with Eric Lin’s shadowy cinematography, comes off sounding like either a threat or a come-on, and too often it’s difficult to tell the difference