Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010)
Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker behind Enron and Taxi to the Dark Side, rolls out his third 2010 entry in what must have been a rather exhausting year for the man. The focus is on former New York attorney general and governor Eliot Spitzer and his fall from grace after being linked to a high-end prostitution ring. Gibney charts the man’s rise and fall in a fairly straightforward and engaging manner, though you start to wonder if there’s really enough material to fill out a two-hour feature. Spitzer speaks candidly and will not humbly vanish as some may wish; the man is an intriguing mixture of righteousness, ego, and humility. What’s most fascinating about Client 9 (named after Spitzer’s name in the FBI sting) is that Spitzer gained a wealth of enemies when he went after Wall Street largesse and greedy shenanigans, and they all want to be on camera. No one with a serious grudge against Spitzer, including men who have since been convicted of crimes and ethics violations, refuses an interview. Gibney draws together a fairly convincing thesis on the take-down of Spitzer, a cabal of powerful execs, politically motivated prosecutors in the Bush administration, and government officials who reject accountability. It’s all circumstantial evidence, to be sure, but there’s a mountain of it. There is a definite conservative-backed coordinated effort to sully and embarrass the man. But ultimately, Spitzer admits that he is responsible for his sins. You will never get full satisfying clarity as to why he sought out the comfort of prostitutes in the first place. I don’t think even Spitzer knows for sure. But that’s an age-old mystery that can’t be tied up in two hours.
Nate’s Grade: B