Early on in Alex Gibney’s well-crafted documentary film, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced Governor looks dead into the camera and remarks of his downfall, “It’s not a new story.” He’s absolutely right, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating story to be told.
The film provides a detailed (if biased) account of a man who used his aggressive style as Attorney General of New York to catapult himself to the Governorship, only to allow excessive personal vices, in the form of four-figure “escorts,” to destroy his political career. Gibney presents the narrative with grace and style – a swanky soundtrack featuring Cat Power’s cover of “New York, New York” sets the tone, immersing us in a cosmopolitan world of power, money and, of course, sex.
The film begins by compiling the many Wall Street crooks that Spitzer took on as Attorney General – the usual suspects of Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, AIG and Goldman Sachs – setting up a list of enemies who would stop at nothing to bring down the political poster boy. Delving only tepidly into the “Luv Gov’s” dirty dealings, Gibney instead focuses on the political consequences of Spitzer’s resignation for the country – a
country that stridently decried Spitzer’s indiscretions while the corporate goons he fought against robbed taxpayers blind. A worthy observation, to be sure, but the film manages to gloss over one important question: When you’re one of the most popular figures in American politics, why blow it all on hookers? Spitzer provides only vague, self-aggrandizing references to Greek tragedy, while Gibney cops out by simply listing the countless other political figures who have been embroiled in extra-marital affairs. Ultimately, Client 9 doesn’t quite reveal the human element to this story; indeed, the most relatable character in the film may be Angelina, a former escort whose interview, ironically, is performed by an
actress (Wrenn Schmidt).
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Starring: Eliot Spitzer, Wrenn Schmidt
Rated R, 117 min