An assured, expertly crafted docu, "Risk/Reward" follows four women in high finance, from a rookie investment banker to a top-ranked research analyst. Lacking the overall drama of "Startup.com" or "e-Dreams," pic more than compensates with skillful presentation and the power of its subjects, femme movers and shakers who perform high-wire juggling acts between their personal and professional lives.

An assured, expertly crafted docu, “Risk/Reward” follows four women in high finance, from a rookie investment banker to a top-ranked research analyst. Lacking the overall drama of “Startup.com” or “e-Dreams,” pic more than compensates with skillful presentation and the fascinating power of its subjects, femme movers and shakers who perform high-wire juggling acts between their personal and professional lives every day. “Risk/Reward” could pay off in a limited theatrical run before transitioning to cable and homevid.

No voiceover view or chyroned statistical grid ties together the four intercut stories. Rather, helmers Elizabeth Holder and Xan Parker let the women speak for themselves, less through interviews than through action. Nimbly interweaving domestic and work scenes, docu chronicles the convoluted trades and trade-offs of women on Wall Street.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of pic is the self-awareness of the women, and the way in which they have knowingly harnessed the demons that drive them to work so hard. Louise Jones, who went straight from high school to the Stock Exchange floor, climbing up to head her own company, celebrates her 35th birthday with friends at the phone booth where her mother abandoned her when she was 2 days old.

When workaholic research analyst Carol Warner Wilke gains the coveted top spot in her field, her husband gently suggests that perhaps now she can ease off and spend more time with him and the kids. Money trader Kimberly Houston, whose firm routinely handles trillions of dollars daily, recounts how, as a newcomer, she piqued the curiosity of potential clients by promising to tell them how a backwoods West Virginia girl went to work at the White House and then the Currency Exchange.

Lastly, Wharton Business School graduate Umber Ahmad, whose parents moved from Pakistan to give their daughters more options, finds the summer as an intern at a brokerage house more all-consuming than she first expected.Pic captures and juxtaposes the women at decision-making moments caused by job offers, pregnancies and 9/11-related market downturns.

Segues between segments are brilliantly thought out and executed and tech credits uniformly top-notch: Lensing in the chaotic conditions of the Exchange floor or crowded brokerage houses flows freely with none of the hand-held jitteriness generally considered de rigeur to convey the turmoil of trade.

Risk/Reward

Production

A Roland Park Pictures production in association with Oxygen Media. Produced by Elizabeth Holder, Xan Parker. Co-producer, Tommy Finkelstein. Executive producer, Peter Gilbert. Directed by Elizabeth Holder,XanParker.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Cynthia Wade; editor, Rachel Kittner; music, MJ Mynarski; sound designer, Paul Hsu. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (competing), April 21, 2003. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Louise Jones, Carol Warner Wilke, Kimberley Euston, Umber Ahmad.
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