Problem: The name Eliot Spitzer is virtually a euphemism for getting one’s knob polished by prostitutes. Solution: Hire a documentarian. Because what demystified Anna Wintour, rejuvenated Joan Rivers and almost humanized Robert McNamara might also work for the disgraced ex-guv, who, of course, doesn’t exactly deserve his rep. A tireless bulldog with a predilection for pummeling Wall Street cocks, he could have been instrumental in easing, if perhaps not averting, our Economic Catastrofuck—had he not been a horny toad.
The resulting scandal and resignation are compared, by Spitzer himself, to Greek mythology. Someone needs to tell him to ease up on the hyperbole, but that someone certainly isn’t the overworked Alex Gibney, making his third-and-a-half (counting a short in Freakonomics) doc this year alone. Following in the steps of Parker Spitzer and his appearance as one of Inside Job ’s smartest voices, Gibney’s Client 9 is less documentary than the most recent leg of the Restore Eliot Spitzer PR campaign. Part record-straightener, part semi-comic history lesson (albeit with fewer cutesy music cues than Gibney’s Casino Jack and the United States of Money), it’s a slick package that reminds the populace of Spitzer’s many good deeds and unveils just enough character flaws to keep it from being a total whitewash.
Spitzer might as well have a director’s credit—except that our star isn’t exactly cooperative. Usually lucid, here he stammers, fumbles and dodges as softball questions are lobbed his way. But Gibney still manages to piece it all together for him. He forms a half-convincing conspiracy theory that he was taken down not so much by his penis than by the powerful men he pissed off.
But Client 9 is more cogent as an argument that only the opportunistic give a shit about what consenting adults do with their genitals. It lends a refreshingly nonjudgmental ear to the staff of the high-end Emperors Club, who come off as mere collateral damage in a larger scheme. The villains aren’t just the Wall Street boogeymen, but a nosy society. After all, a sex scandal is a pretty lame excuse to rid the world of a politician who actually got shit done.