It’s nigh impossible to review Client 9, the new documentary about Eliot Spitzer, without taking a personal position on the ex-governor of New York, so here is mine: I think Spitzer was a breath of fresh air in American politics, a hardnosed attorney general and then governor who had the balls to take on big banking, Wall Street, and crooked politicians. I think he was taken down by political enemies over a personal indiscretion, and the country is now in worse shape because of it.
I also think Spitzer is egocentric, a bit naïve, and probably less interested in serving the public than his own private interests. He is an annoying motor-mouth on his new CNN show, Parker Spitzer, and he was in large part responsible for his own political downfall.
Client 9, a fresh take on what I thought was a stale story, reintroduces most of the players in this tawdry saga. Here they all are: Ashley Dupre, the prostitute who became Spitzer’s Monica Lewinsky; Joe Bruno, Hank Greenberg, Roger Stone, and Ken Langone – New York pols, businessmen and, judging by this movie, major-league assholes. Director Alex Gibney’s documentary makes it clear that Spitzer’s biggest mistake was offending these people and, as one man points out in the film, “not playing well with others.” Spitzer himself, perhaps with a bit of hubris, compares his tumble to Greek tragedy.
Performance artist Karen Finley makes an astute observation in the film: “We want our political people to be God, and maybe that’s the biggest problem for us. He’s a human being, and he’s not God. This isn’t just a national narrative, but it’s an ancient narrative that happened and has to repeat itself into our culture.”
Maybe Spitzer’s comparison to Greek tragedy is not so far-fetched. It’s sad to see the former Sheriff of Wall Street reduced to just one more talking head on cable. And it’s dispiriting to see Dupre flirting on TV with Geraldo Rivera and penning gibberish for the New York Post, and to watch Greenberg, Bruno, Langone, and Stone all gloat over Spitzer’s ruined career. Wall Street is still sick, and what we desperately need is a good guy. Someone like the Sheriff of Wall Street. Grade: B+
Director: Alex Gibney Featuring: Eliot Spitzer, Joseph Bruno, Hank Greenberg, Roger Stone, Ken Langone, Cecil Suwal, Hulbert Waldroup Release: 2010
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