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Noblesse Oblige

By Brian Prisco | Film | November 17, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | November 17, 2010 |

The only truly honest moment in Alex Gibney’s documentary comes after nearly two hours when Eliot Spitzer finally says that no matter who set up the investigations against him, he’s the one who made the mistake. If only Spitzer had started out with this kind of bravado, owning up and admitting, “Look, I fucked a grown woman for money. Wall Street’s fucking all of you in the ass and taking your money. Who’s worse?” from the very get-go, he might have come off with more panache. As it stands, what seems like a flashy magazine rebuttal and an attempt to regain our good graces bodes about as well for Eliot Spitzer as for the other financial fat cats who are simultaneously skewered in Gibney’s documentary. Spitzer’s still playing politician, and it makes him come off shady and sketchy. As for Gibney, in what seems like a struggle to remain objective and informative, his documentary is really patchy and disorganized, a scatterbrained fingerpointer that pokes itself in the eyes. The trailers made the film out to be an indictment of the Wall Street warlords finding a chink in the armor of the one man who was bringing them down, but the narrative can never find a solid through-line to hold onto. While I kind of agree with Gibney’s overarching sentiment that apparently everyone’s an asshole, I wish he had buckled down and stuck it out instead of splicing together Bob Costas’s “Real Sports” with clips from HBO’s “Hookers On The Point,” and zoo footage.

Who else is going to pay for a $10,000 blowjob, if not our wealthy and elite? Our country spends so much time concerning itself with the sexual habits of others they forget to worry about basic public needs. Such as, you know, having a job and a home and basic health care. We’re so focused on newsbites about unimportant vaginas — whether someone’s showing on a sextape, or another one’s got eight babies in it, or this male celebrity’s not a big fan of them — that we’re missing when Wall Street is reaching into our back pockets and filching our wallets. As Attorney General of the State of New York and then as Governor, Eliot Spitzer was actually attempting to put a stop to Wall Street greed. He was actually trying to wave a warning flag to prevent the massive economic turmoil we find ourselves in now. He was trying to halt these golden parachutes the financiers were building for themselves out of our hard earned capital. And so these Wall Street monsters hit him where it hurts — right in his wandering wang.

It was a witchhunt — pure and simple — a concerted effort on the parts of financial moguls, the U.S. Government under George W. Bush, and his Republican adversaries to bring Spitzer to his knees. They used every dirty trick in the book to dig up as much dirt against this so-called white knight Spitzer as they could find. Spitzer was a wild dog, and they had to put him down with whatever means necessary. But you can’t have a witchhunt unless someone’s running around in a pointy hat. Spitzer hired prostitutes. In the grand scheme of things, prostitution is pretty much a victimless crime — at least when we’re talking high-end escorts. Sure, when you tip down towards the lower end of the economic scale on hooking, you get into rape and slavery trades and drug abuse. But when you take it off Craigslist and aim for the professional professionals, it’s nothing more than two consenting adults exchanging bodily fluids in the comfort of a penthouse hotel suite. Spitzer wasn’t spending government money on his encounters, he wasn’t doinking on the taxpayer’s dime. Personally, we all work a little better after some nookie.

Spitzer’s biggest problem is that he was an asshole. He actually continues to be an asshole. He compares his hubris to Icarus. You didn’t fly to close to the sun trying to escape from prison, you fucking moron. You stuck your cock in a Girl Gone Wild who was looking for a record contract and a Playboy spread. Spitzer claims it’s Greek tragedy, but I don’t recall Aeschylus penning any classics where Agamemnon gets stabbed after porking one of the lesser Muses — Tonedeafanon. The funniest part is that Ashley Dupree, the governor’s alleged galpal, was a one-time screw on the sale rack of the Emperor’s Club escort service, and that Angelina, the girl he actually spent most of his time filing briefs with, is currently a day trader for the NYSE who wanted to remain anonymous. Spitzer continues to hem and haw when he finally has the opportunity to be frank. When asked why powerful men put the bone to prostitutes when they have beautiful women at home, Spitzer flimflams. I instantly lost what little regard I had for his efforts against Wall Street.

Gibney’s documentary is really just messy and disorganized. It breaks itself up into tiny vignettes, seemingly choreographed to Spitzer’s rise and fall from glory, but taking massive diversions into the background of the different prostitution rackets in New York and financial corruptions of Wall Street, without every giving enough details to merit the detours. In fact, any of the furor raised about what these financier goons were doing was leftover from the far more damning Inside Job. And instead of actually chronicling the former governor’s dalliances when they arose, Gibney keeps hurling prostitution asides willy-nilly. It’s a little like watching C-SPAN if they would subliminally insert Dana Carvey every five minutes dressed like Ross Perot, shouting “WHORES!” Plus, he fills the entire documentary with these bizarre filler shots of sharks and polar bears and faux arty New York City streetscapes, which coupled with the two hour plus run time and distractive narrative, do nothing to help the case.

On the plus side, the assholes finally get their comeuppance. If Spitzer comes off as shady and weasely, then the fat cats come off like dodgy raging peckerwoods. Every politico who stood again Spitzer, complaining what a scumbag he was, is shown as the corrupt and criminal fiends they are. Biggest of all is Roger Stone, a Republican hatchet man who gleefully explains how sick and twisted Spitzer’s sexual proclivities were, when he himself was fired from political campaigns for placing a Swingers ad. And I don’t mean for the Favreau film. Stone is a complete motherfucking psychopath — an elderly lunatic with a Nixon tattoo between his shoulder blades. He orchestrated as much of the takedown as he could, and then took credit for whatever he didn’t.

Client 9 would be so much more refreshing of a film if everyone wasn’t a douchebag. In a year of fierce indictments of the U.S. government and the military systems in some fascinating documentaries, this was a colossal disappointment, especially from someone as gifted as Alex Gibney. The overwhelming sentiment was that everyone in power is corrupt or corruptible, but you wish one time someone would own up to the fuck up. I had hoped Spitzer was going to make a bold stand, the kind of bold stand he claimed to make in his political career. Instead, it really felt like nothing more than an attempt on his part to further bolster his ambitions of getting back in the public eye. He should take a page from Clinton, who did just as much as Reagan and the Bushes to fuck up our country and got himself a hummer in White House and still is one of the more charismatic figures alive today. But, like I’ve been saying, better to spray a few million potential babies across some willing lass’s lower back after a BJ than to send thousands of actual babies to die in a desert on a hunt for imaginary WMDs.

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