Directed by Alex Gibney (No End in Sight, Taxi to the Dark Side), Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, is an examination of... the rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York whose glowing political career was destroyed after it was revealed he had an affinity for high-class escorts.
Gibney ties the movie not to Spitzer's indiscretions as much as the reasons why he fell from grace in the first place. Many had heralded him as a future Presidential candidate and he was known for pursuing questionable financial practices on Wall Street - the same practices that caused a worldwide meltdown a few years after his fall.
Gibney's thesis is that Spitzer was the victim of a focused mudslinging campaign conducted by several Wall Street executives and certain government officials.
Gibney is one of the best documentary filmmakers working today. Several of his movies have been nominated for Oscars and he has a keen ability to dissect financial failures in an easy to understand way. He takes the same tact with Client 9, but unfortunately it doesn't hit the mark the way his other films have.
That's not to say Client 9 isn't a good movie. It is. But with all of the documentaries that have tackled the financial crisis over the last two years, Client 9 just isn't as compelling as, say, Oscar-winning Inside Job, or even Gibney's other 2010 release, Casino Jack and the United States of Money.
While I could believe it, Gibney's hypothesis about why Spitzer got into trouble is vaguer, the evidence more hypothetical, than in his other movies. The picture seems less fact-based and more intent on shifting the blame away from Spitzer.
Personally, from what I know of Spitzer, it's a shame he made the mistake he did. He was a good politician and fighting some good fights. But he did make a mistake, one that time and time again has been proven to destroy political careers. He should have known better and paid the price.
Gibney seems to pussyfoot around Spitzer. While he asks some good questions, I wanted to see more out of Spitzer; the politician seemed honest at times, but evasive in other instances. There were other questions I would have asked, other answers I was hoping to learn.
Nevertheless, Client 9 is a well made documentary that provides yet another glimpse at how wretched the financial institutions in this country have become.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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