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Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
BLU-RAY disk
Feb 18, 2011 By: Jason Adams
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer order download
Director:
Alex Gibney

Actors:
Eliot Spitzer
Kim Allen
Wrenn Schmidt

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
On March 10, 2008, Eliot Spitzer was the governor of New York and an aspiring national political star, with decades of progress and support behind him. On March 12, 2008 he was learning a valuable lesson about not secretly banging prostitutes.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
CLIENT 9 comes to us from Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, who directed the fascinating/infuriating documentary ENRON: SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. Gibney is without a doubt one of the best documentarians working today, turning in non-fiction work that is slick, polished and effortlessly entertaining with compelling facts and great visual sensibilities that make you forget you're watching something that isn’t entirely made up. (He also has the foresight to pick intriguing subjects.) CLIENT 9 is no different. This movie manages to have style, rhythm and a fast pace, and like Gibney's other work, it also has a sense of humor. (“Member of the lucky sperm club” will be entering my daily lexicon.)

However, the best (or maybe most surprising) part of CLIENT 9 is that Eliot Spitzer himself is actually in this documentary about his own life. It's definitely a coup in terms of access and entertainment (Spitzer immediately compares his story to a Greek tragedy), but I think having the subject's direct involvement in the film is both a blessing and a hindrance to its ultimate success.

If you were expecting a seedy, sordid tale centered on Spitzer's immoral indiscretions, you might be disappointed with CLIENT 9. As the tagline suggests, the film also chronicles the rise of the politician, and a decent chunk of the running time deals with how Spitzer made a name of himself as attorney general and the "Sherriff of Wall Street." It goes in to eye-opening detail about the crooked investors and mutual fund scams of the 90s up to the recent economic meltdown, featuring interviews with all the major players and CEOs. The movie breaks all the complex financial stuff down in to manageable chunks, much like ENRON did, and is similarly shocking for the uninformed. Even when the film does get to the parts about prostitution, it treats it like another business, explaining the management and finance side while talking to the pimps, madams and giggly former escorts.

While Spitzer seems to be fairly forthcoming about his life and problems during his interview segments, his inclusion still raises some issues about the documentary's intentions. With its time spent praising his early achievements as attorney general, CLIENT 9 seems to go a long way toward portraying the former governor as some sort of folk hero of the common people—a man who no doubt screwed up but overall is still a great guy and a missed political opportunity. The result is almost too kind, as if CLIENT 9 was actually a fluff piece promoting the man's recent media appearances and eventual return to politics.

The film does a fine job presenting some conspiracy theories about the bizarre ways in which Spitzer was investigated, but in the end the man is still admittedly guilty of what he did and pointing fingers at the prosecution's political motives just feels like blatant deflection. In fact, surprisingly little time is spent dealing with the scandal itself, as opposed to the forces that revealed it. Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the now-famous hooker who spent the night with Spitzer, is kind of glossed over in a line or two and Spitzer himself only addresses the actual infidelity very briefly. The rest of the final act plays like political posturing. There's a montage of other politicians who’ve been involved in their own scandals, as if to say, “All these other people did it too!” while repeatedly pointing out that Spitzer was never actually charged with a crime and only resigned to "protect his family." And then the film ends by showing all the crimes and bad things Spitzer's critics and enemies have been convicted of, while showing Spitzer walking down the street to demonstrate he's still a man of the people.

I really have no strong feelings about Spitzer politically one way or another (though I absolutely judge him for cheating on his wife), but if this positive spin is the conclusion Gibney wants to present, that's fine. However, that combined with Spitzer's obvious participation in CLIENT 9 makes the entire movie a little suspect.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by writer/director Alex Gibney: Gibney is a charming speaker and easy to listen to. He excitedly gets in to the nature of the documentary beast and even some of the more technical details about filming. Not a bad track for interested parties, though he did nothing to allay my qualms about the intent of the film.

Interview with Alex Gibney (14:54): Gibney spends most of the time talking about how important Spitzer was, which is more or less the same as the film itself.

Extended Interviews (33:25): More face time with pretty much every interview subject, including Spitzer, prostitutes, pimps, and his political opponents. The raw Spitzer interviews do give more insight in to the man's recent state of mind.

Deleted Scenes (16:42): Five polished and finished scenes, including more disbelieving reactions to the scandal, a reality show about prostitutes, AIG, and more. Most of the info here is already touched on in the film in some way.

HDNet : A Look at CLIENT 9 (4:21): Very short promo piece with footage and brief interviews with the filmmakers.

Trailer and Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I do think CLIENT 9 is worth watching, as Eliot Spitzer's multi-decade story is definitely compelling. but I would just be weary of the movie's possibly biased final message or portrayal of the title character due to his participation in it. Give it a rent if you're curious.

Extra Tidbit: Gibney also recently directed GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON, CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY and FREAKANOMICS.
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