Last night, the most anticipated film of the Tribeca Film Festival opened — and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The unfinished Untitled Eliot Spitzer Project, directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, felt like a comeback — and an onscreen wake, as Spitzer’s antagonists Joe Bruno, Ken Langone, and Roger Stone danced on Spitzer’s grave, even as Client 9 struggled to raise himself from the dead.
The doc is a ricocheting, lowbrow-to-highbrow recap, veering from tabloid headlines and prostitute interviews to lofty campaign ads and reflections on the economic crisis. There’s also little in it that has not already emerged via Rough Justice, the biography by Gibney’s collaborator Peter Elkind. “Angelina,” the woman that Elkin and Gibney assert was Spitzer’s real main squeeze at the Emperors Club, was in the documentary — but only in spirit. Gibney hired an attractive actress to read her transcribed descriptions of liaisons with the former governor (“no black socks”) and accounts of her sketchy FBI interviews. Spitzer himself did not attend — but Republican operative Roger Stone did, telling the Post afterward that the film was “completely biased” — no surprise, since Gibney hints heavily at a conservative conspiracy. (Also in attendance: Darren Dopp, the Emperors Club’s Cecil Suwal, Peter Elkind, Mort Zuckerman, Nora Ephron, Nick Pileggi, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.)
Also not in attendance or onscreen: Ashley Dupré, who refused to participate because she wanted editorial control. In an e-mail to the AP, she explained, hilariously (given her Post romance column and regular appearances on Fox): “I didn’t think it was smart to participate after what I’ve seen with editing I think everyone is trying to move on with their lives and by me participating in their project would only open old wounds.” In the film, Gibney suggests that Murdoch and News Corp. have been counter-programming Spitzer’s comeback with Dupré’s media appearances. In the post film Q&A, Gibney suggested that Dupré “saw this as a personal opportunity but was being used by people with a political agenda.” Still, it wasn’t all bad news for Dupré: Fellow escort Ashley Youmans praised Dupré’s “perfect coochie.”
“Angelina” may have spoken to Gibney before anyone else — but she reveals that multiple journalists were calling her on her cell phone during Dupré’s tabloid run. She also said that she believes a lot of her johns were so much “nicer” than her real dates that she “stopped dating in the real world. My standards were lifted.” She is now a commodities day trader.
But the real stars of the film were undoubtedly Langone, Roger Stone, and Joe Bruno, who can barely contain their glee. Langone, especially, cannot hold it in — or let go. He says the worst thing Spitzer did was to make him “defy my faith — because I can’t forgive him.”
Spitzer himself is political and careful — never revealing more than the basics, and refusing to say much at all in the doc that he hasn’t said elsewhere, and just as carefully. But his most hilarious responses were in response to stories about his legendary temper. “I hope I didn’t say that,” or “those may not have been my words,” he said disingenuously, and repeatedly. On the “fucking steamroller” comment, he explained that he had “been listening to James Taylor” and that it was “honestly meant in good humor.” It’s that blatant Clintonian doublespeak, which stops so very far short of full disclosure that it will make it hard for anyone to trust that he’s ever being truly forthcoming, and which will make his resurrection that much harder.