Hollywood has always liked the biopic – the biographical film that erases the subject’s warts and extols his virtues is a tried and true formula that dates back to Raymond Massey in “Abraham Lincoln,” Jimmy Stewart in “The Jimmy Dorsey Story” and Larry Parks in “The Jolson Story.” Jolson, sometimes called the World’s Greatest Entertainer was an egomaniac and insecure bastard but was whitewashed as a friendly Minstrel Man by the folks at Columbia pictures. More recently Paul Giamatti won kudos for his portrayal of Founding Father John Adams.
Now it’s Eliot Spitzer’s turn at the Hollywood treatment – only in his case it’s the Hollywood Liberal treatment. Spitzer doesn’t even need a star actor to portray him- he get to play himself in his comeback vehicle. Award-winning documentary-maker Alex Gibney’s untitled documentary which previewed at the TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL was all the rage of reviewers at the New York Times and the Huffington Post. Now comes word from The Wagner/Cuban Companies’ Magnolia Pictures that it has acquired US rights to Oscar-winner Gibney’s untitled Eliot Spitzer documentary produced by A&E IndieFilms and Wider Film Projects. Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban have bought a propaganda film.
Gibney’s basic theory is flawed from the get go. Gibney’s movie is a screed which blames the Bush White House, Longtime New York Senate Boss Joe Bruno ,the Bush Justice department, Rupert Murdoch and his New York Post, billionaire Ken Langone and yours truly for Spitzer’s downfall in a dark, right wing conspiracy that never existed. Gibney fails to see that it was Spitzer’s arrogance and hypocrisy that brought him down. Gibney focuses on sex to hide Spitzer’s other crimes, abuse of power, temperament and mania. This is liberal rewriting of history at it’s worst.
Warm and fuzzy interviews with Spitzer in which he never apologizes or acknowledges are interspersed with Gibney’s straight man, author Peter Elkind, a Fortune Reporter Spitzer started leaking to during the Eddie Stern case in the early nineties who virtually gushes over Spitzer’ superiority to mortal men. A companion book by Elkind has even more errors than the Gibney movie .
Of course Gibney makes Spitzer the Sheriff of Wall Street and lets his ex-aides and sycophants talk of his brave record of fighting for the little guy. They fail to mention his blackmail technique in which a company and its officers agree to plead to things they hadn’t done lest Spitzer destroy their company’s value in leak or press release. In the courtroom Spitzer lost all the big ones. Spitzer also spared friends on Wall Street and forced companies to hire his cronies as a condition of settlement
Gibney, who claims it was all a Republican-plot, ignores – indeed – never mentions that it was Democrat Andrew Cuomo who investigated and issued a scathing report in which he nailed Spitzer and his top aides for the dirty tricks campaign to use the New York State police to spy on his political opponents. It was an act of courage and integrity on Cuomo’s part.
Gibney likewise says matter of factly that Billionaire founder of Home Depot Ken Langone “hired a private detective to get the goods on Spitzer.” Langone himself denies this in the movie. Gibney has no proof at all. Langone insists he had a friend behind Spitzer in a post office and the Luv Guv was buying money orders and this was his first inkling that Spitzer might like prostitues. Gibney’s claim that Langone hired a gumshoe doesn’t stand up.