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


(Streaming on Netflix as of 12/14/2011)

I don’t watch or read much news. It’s a choice I make because I think the majority of what is passed along as news is really nothing more than gossip. Which is what made this documentary so fascinating to me. Client 9 is essentially the story of how gossip-masquerading-as-news can be used to actually make news. In this case, the rare politician who has the guts and the brains to fight the systemic wrongs that are choking the life out of our country—and actually make a difference—is brought down by gossip about who he’s fucking.

Was he wrong to solicit prostitutes? Of course. Even Eliot Spitzer does not contest that fact.

But given that no criminal charges were ever brought against him, given that no evidence was presented by anyone that his actions interfered with his ability to govern effectively, how is this news? A powerful man has sex with someone who isn’t his wife! Shocking!

But my real issue is not with the gossipers, it’s with Spitzer himself.

If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…

This is a man who had proven he had both the will and the ability to take on powerful criminals and win. That’s a rare combination. If that’s who you are, then you have a responsibility—literally a “response ability”—to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves. You don’t get to resign just because you screwed up.

Eliot Spitzer was fighting the very same banking “wrongs” that wreaked such havoc on the economy years before anyone else was paying attention. And in the year or two that he vanished from public service, he lost all of his momentum. No one’s stepped up in his place. He was the man to do the job, and he quit.

This is all my long-winded way of explaining just how engaging this documentary is. The director plays out the story like a true tragedy. There’s no redemption at the end, and there shouldn’t be. What happened is genuinely tragic. It sounds cheesy to call Spitzer a champion of the people, but he was. And at the end of the story, we’re the ones, not him, who lost the most.

More info at IMDb, RottenTomatoes, and Amazon.com.

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