The usually silver-tongued Eliot Spitzer, political hero of last months Inside Job and now ubiquitous media personality, stammers and hesitates when asked to explain the psychosexual motivations behind his spectacular flameout in Alex Gibneys gripping Client 9or, if you prefer, Inside Blow Job.
Spitzer, whose tireless efforts to redeem himself led to his cooperation in this doc, receives an entirely sympatheticyet thoroughly researchedtreatment from Gibney. The prolific documentarianClient 9 is Gibneys fourth film this yearmakes a persuasive case that the former governor may have been brought down not just by his penis, but by his deep-pocketed enemies: GOP operatives and the titans of industry Spitzer went after during his tenure as New York State Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.
Gibneys sit-down with Spitzer, sleekly filmed in what looks like his living room (or the study of an Ivy League club that didnt reject his application for membership), finds the notoriously rage-prone crusader once known as the Sheriff of Wall Street initially speaking about himself in the third person before finding analogies to his downfall in Greek mythology: The only metaphor I can think of is Icarus. Those whom the gods would destroy, they make all-powerful. That power was wielded through Spitzers zealous pursuit, while attorney general, of large corporations and their obscene pay packages, bringing down the New York Stock Exchanges Kenneth Langone in 2004 and AIGs Maurice Hank Greenberg in 2005. Both men talk onscreen (Langone most memorably: I hope his private hell is hotter than others), as do fellow Spitzer-haters Joseph Bruno, the former Republican majority leader of the New York Senate, and scummy GOP strategist Roger Stone, who claims that he was retained by wealthy Republicans to stay on the Spitzer detail.
Gibneys assiduous presentation of a payback plot against Spitzerincluding information on the enormous amounts of money, time, and resources that Michael Garcia, the Bush IIappointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, spent tracking the governors prostie visitsis matched by his diligent investigation into the workings of the Emperors Club VIP. Ultimately, vice just took over virtue and he couldnt control himself, giggly 25-year-old Cecil Suwal, who started the exclusive escort service with her sexagenarian boyfriend, says of the righteous politician they knew as George Fox. Aspiring pop singer/former Gansevoort Hotel bottle girl/current New York Post sex columnist Ashley Dupré, we discover, wasnt Spitzers preferred paid companion; they had only one assignation, at D.C.s Mayflower Hotel in February 2008. The Emperors Club employee most favored by Spitzer agreed to be interviewed on the condition that her face and voice not be used. Gibney code-names her Angelina and provocativelybut effectivelyuses an actress (Wrenn Schmidt) to perform her testimony. Angelina, apparently the only newspaper-reading escort who recognized Spitzer, debunks mythsthe governor didnt do it with his socks onand sheds light on their pillow talk: Id go on rants about what was wrong with New York City, and hed listen.
As for what was wrong with Spitzer, whose phenomenally bad judgment (and appalling hypocrisy) was the result of either extraordinary hubris or a willful need for self-destruction, the man himself tensely offers this vague explanation: Those are the mysteries of the human mind, I suppose, because I dont know. But as Gibney, persistently asking his subject to reflect on his reckless behavior, argues, what matters more than the reasons behind Spitzers psychological shortcomings is that his political career endedmost likely foreverjust when we needed his stewardship the most. Could Spitzer have protected us from Wall Streets implosion six months after he resigned as governor? Probably not, but Empire Staters would at least have been spared the disastrous rule of David Paterson.
My view is I brought myself down, Spitzer, believably contrite and unwilling to portray himself as the victim of a conspiracy, admits. His chastened confession will do more to rehabilitate his image than any number of Parker Spitzer episodes. If Angelina, now working as a commodities day trader, can reinvent herself, why cant a devoted, flawed public servant?
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