• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:January 12, 2022

Client 9: The Luv Gov


client9I remember admiring Eliot Spitzer from afar. That was when he was the New York State Attorney General, the famed “Sheriff of Wall Street”, who busted crooked bankers. I also remember being very surprised to learn of his demise one year after being sworn in as Governor, but considering what a shock Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky affair had been in 1998, most other subsequent sex scandals tend to pale in comparison.

Still, director Alex Gibney makes sure we don’t forget the complexity of this affair, and he also sheds light on some of its lesser known aspects.

A life of privilege
Eliot Spitzer was born in the Bronx in 1959 as the son of a real estate tycoon. Even though he enjoyed a life of privilege, Spitzer was taught at an early age how to be ambitious. In his role as Attorney General, he fought not only white collar crime but also became involved in environmental issues. Some people saw in him a hero, a man willing to use his standing and wealth to fight for good causes, but others saw a person who couldn’t control his temper and had an authoritarian bent.
After being elected Governor, Spitzer soon found it almost impossible to work with Republicans in the state legislature. Along the way, he had gained some pretty powerful enemies ā€“ and all they needed for Spitzer was to make a false move.

Colorful spectrum of testimonies
In an attempt to explain what prompted him to do something as idiotic as contacting an escort service and make repeated visits with a hooker called “Angelina”, Eliot Spitzer compares himself with Icarus. In other words, he became so full of himself that he dared to venture too close to the sun. It’s hard not to be fascinated with a politician like him, who had it all but chose to ruin everything.

Gibney has assembled a colorful spectrum of testimonies made by people who were somehow involved in the affair. They range from Spitzer himself, talking awkwardly and vaguely about his motives, to Cecil Suwal, the bubbly former head of the escort service; from Joe Bruno, the former boxer and New York Senate Majority Leader who constantly clashed with Spitzer, to Ken Langone and Hank Greenberg, the Wall Street sharks who hate Spitzer’s guts and have no qualms about celebrating his demise. And I haven’t even mentioned Roger Stone, the flamboyant swinger and GOP hit man with a Nixon tattoo on his back. “Angelina” appears indirectly, played by an actress (Wrenn Schmidt) who’s performing the escort’s testimony; a disappointment at first, since it’s not the real personā€¦ but Schmidt is good and it’s easy to become engaged in “Angelina’s” story.

The film identifies a number of suspects who may have had something to do with the Governor’s downfall, because it was obvious from the start that investigating this particular escort service carried political implications that had little to do with issues of law and order. A riveting story, and admirably balanced, making us understand why it was so easy to admire Spitzer and why it was so hard to work with him.

Most of the interview subjects have been convicted of crimes or thrown out of their positions of power. They’re in no place to get cocky. But there’s still so much passion and energy when they get a chance to talk, as if they’ve been given one more chance to settle scores or get the record straight. It’s a first-hand account of bare-knuckled power struggles and greed in the state of New York. Thanks to swift editing, a nifty soundtrack and Gibney’s ability to bring order to it, we feel like we’re on top of this thing when the movie ends. But we’re probably just scratching the surface.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer 2010-U.S. 117 min. Color. Produced byĀ Maiken Baird, Alex Gibney, Jedd Wider, Todd Wider. Directed byĀ Alex Gibney.

Trivia:Ā Partly based on the book “Rough Justice” by Peter Elkind (who also appears in the film).

Last word:Ā “You think well, itā€™s obvious Spitzer just did something that was terrible, so what more is there to know? But in fact, there was a lot more to know, particularly in terms of how he was taken down. And Spitzer himself says, ‘I took myself down,’ which is true, but he has to say that. From the standpoint of us as citizens, we have to wonder what other abuses of power were involved in the way he was taken down, which in my view, was utterly inappropriate. I thought about ‘The Big Sleep’ a lot when I was making the movie. The deeper you get into the movie, the more at sea you are until you come to the end. And at the end of the day, itā€™s not so important who killed the chauffeur as the kind of mood and character of the people in the story.” (Gibney, IFC)



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