Just in time for Eliot Spitzer’s reincarnation as co-host of CNN’s prime-time show “Parker Spitzer” comes “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” a film documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney about the former New York governor’s fall from grace following the scandalous news that he patronized a prostitution service.
To be sure, “Client 9” is overtly sympathetic to Spitzer, but it does provide details and context that may help viewers to reconsider the affair and the possible, behind-the-scenes shenanigans that may have instigated the scandal. The film implies, for example, that Spitzer’s downfall may have been orchestrated partly but deliberately by the corporate powerhouses the so-called “Sheriff of Wall Street” took on during his tenure as the Empire State’s attorney general. Spitzer’s efforts may have earned him the public’s praise, but they certainly didn’t make him many friends on Wall Street.
We also get sugar-coated but thought-provoking glimpses of Spitzer’s personality interspersed with interviews with pundits and news footage.
Among the many intriguing characters the film depicts is longtime Republican consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone. The film suggests Stone, a controversial figure even within his own party, was hired by New York Republicans to go after Spitzer, and the self-proclaimed “GOP hitman” appears in the film to indulge speculations that he played a role in Spitzer’s demise. True or not, the film’s portrayal of Stone as the ultimate dirty trickster does more to paint political consultants as bad guys than to applaud them as professionals for a job well done. After all, it was not Roger Stone—or anyone else for that matter—who dragged Spitzer by the hand to the Emperor’s Club.
In sum, the film is entertaining and provocative, and it is a useful case study of the outbreak of a crisis that can even help prepare political operatives for the scandalous situations they encounter all too often with clients. It is also a powerful reminder of the type of hubris, or poor judgment, that can bring down even the brightest and most promising political stars. It is perhaps a film that all aspiring or ambitious politicians should be made to watch. Produced by Magnolia Pictures and A&E IndieFilms in association with Wider Film Projects and Jigsaw Productions, debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “Client 9” It opens—interestingly, post-Election Day—on November 5 in New York and Los Angeles and nationally after that.