Risk/Reward

Does money buy freedom or life in a gilded cage? Infinite variations on that question bedevil the four women profiled in Xan Parker and Elizabeth Holder's sleekly engaging documentary, a bracing antidote to Wanda Whips Wall Street-style fantasies about pneumatic vixens climbing the latter of success in stilettos. The filmmakers spent a tumultuous year with...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Does money buy freedom or life in a gilded cage? Infinite variations on that question bedevil the four women profiled in Xan Parker and Elizabeth Holder's sleekly engaging documentary, a bracing antidote to Wanda Whips Wall Street-style fantasies about pneumatic vixens climbing the latter of success in stilettos. The filmmakers spent a tumultuous year with four perpetually tired, stressed-out women, three of whom have achieved financial-sector success and a fourth who aspires to be just like them. Floor broker Louise Jones, currency trader Kimberly Euston and equity research analyst Carol Warner Wilke, all in their late 20s and early 30s, followed different roads to The Street. The fiercely competitive, workaholic Wilke craves the rush of being a top girl; no matter how many challenges she conquers, she's always looking to the next one. Euston, one of a handful of students from her rural West Virginia high school to attend college, hopes for a couple of seven-figure years so she can retire and spend time at home. And Jones, abandoned in a phone booth as an infant and raised in a Staten Island housing project, went straight from high school to Wall Street, driven by the lifelong belief that money would make her feel like someone who mattered. Fresh-faced, dressed-for-success Wharton student Umber Ahmad, who's about to graduate into a tough job market armed with her MBA, is thrilled to land a prestigious internship at the internationally famous brokerage firm Morgan Stanley. But her naïve, post-feminist expectations run smack up against reality in the form of unforgiving work/life trade-offs her role models have been negotiating for years. Their brilliant careers reward them financially, but 18-hour workdays breed neglected spouses and children, and as representatives of a tiny minority — in 2001, only 44 of the 1,366 members of the NYSE were women — they all struggle with the expectation that they'll not only act like men, but that they'll act like the kind of men who sacrifice their families on the altar of getting ahead. None of the discontents Parker and Holder's subjects articulate are new, but that doesn't make them any less compelling; in fact, the women's pragmatic acceptance of the compromises they've made is more disheartening than any barrage of complaints. In the end, you're left to pick your moral: Money changes everything or money isn't everything or both.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Review: Does money buy freedom or life in a gilded cage? Infinite variations on that question bedevil the four women profiled in Xan Parker and Elizabeth Holder's sleekly engaging documentary, a bracing antidote to Wanda Whips Wall Street-style fantasies about pne… (more)

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