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Review: Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010)

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010)

Directed by: Alex Gibney

Premise: A documentary about the rise of Eliot Spitzer from an ambitious prosecutor to governor of New York and his eventual resignation amid a scandal linking him to a prostitution ring.

What Works: Client 9 is a smart documentary that is much more than an expose of a sex scandal. This is actually a film about power and corruption and it spends most of its time on Spitzer’s active prosecution of Wall Street criminals and the enemies he made in the process. Prostitution, although dealt with, is really a secondary issue in the film, a sinful background against which political and financial corruption play out. The narrative of Spitzer’s rise and fall is told mostly through testimony of the people directly involved from high profile bank executives to call girls, and the cross cutting between the two suggests that the actions and professions of these men and women have more in common than we might initially imagine. Client 9 plays like a mystery or a political thriller, following the trail of money and influence transferred between financial institutions and political figures and it deals with complex economic issues in a very understandable way. Its storytelling style is effective and structured in such a way that it crisscrosses around the time line, allowing Spitzer’s rise and fall to unravel while arranging the information in such a way that it gives perspective on the events as they unfold.

What Doesn’t: What Client 9 misses is a substantive look into why Spitzer compromised himself in such an obvious and stupid way, especially when it was clear that he was the target of very powerful political and business figures. It is a glaring hole in what is otherwise a tight story.

Bottom Line: Client 9 is a very good documentary. Although it does not reveal very much about Spitzer, it does play as a fascinating story of money, sex, greed, and hubris.

Episode: #317 (December 5, 2010)