Independent Lens: Season 8, Episode 22

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (13 Oct. 2005)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 4,493 users   Metascore: 82/100
Reviews: 74 user | 234 critic | 37 from Metacritic.com

Corporate audio and videotapes tell the inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and its, and how its executives wrung a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis.

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
...
Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Beard ...
Himself
...
Herself (archive footage)
...
Himself
Jim Chanos ...
Himself
Dick Cheney ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Carol Coale ...
Herself
...
Himself
Reggie Dees II ...
Young man the stripper dances in front of (as Reggie Deets II)
Joseph Dunn ...
Himself
Max Eberts ...
Himself
Peter Elkind ...
Himself
Andrew Fastow ...
Himself
David Freeman ...
Himself
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Storyline

Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a multidimensional study of one of the biggest business scandals in American history. The chronicle takes a look at one of the greatest corporate disasters in history, in which top executives from the 7th largest company in this country walked away with over one billion dollars, leaving investors and employees with nothing. The film features insider accounts and rare corporate audio and video tapes that reveal colossal personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy. The human drama that unfolds within Enron's walls resembles a Greek tragedy and produces a domino effect that could shape the face of our economy and ethical code for years to come. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's Just Business

Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some nudity | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

13 October 2005 (Australia)  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$76,639 (USA) (22 April 2005)

Gross:

$4,064,421 (USA) (16 September 2005)
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1.85 : 1
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Trivia

Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka, who was killed on 16 April 2005 in Iraq by a suicide bomber. She founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict) which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq and she was a former Global Exchange activist. See more »

Quotes

Bethany McLean: Lou Pai left Enron with more money than anyone, because he sold all his stock after he divorced his wife to marry his stripper girlfriend who was having his child.
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Crazy Credits

Special thanks includes "all the `Deep Throats' - you know who you are!" See more »

Connections

Features Global Addiction (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

That Old Black Magic
Written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
Used by permission of Famous Music Corporation
Performed by Judy Garland
Courtesy of Geffen Records under license from Universal Music Enterprises
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User Reviews

 
Energetic Hubris.
11 May 2005 | by (Columbus, Ohio) – See all my reviews

"Ask why" was the mantra of one of the most remarkable companies in the history of modern society: Enron. And not one, not even the venerable accounting firm of Arthur Anderson, asked that question. So the little energy company that could amassed billions of dollars through deceptive accounting practices, mainly by stating profit based on future earnings (HFV=hypothetical future value) and shipping losses to offshore shell companies.

Alex Gibney's absorbing documentary, based on the book co-authored by the first prominent whistle blower and Enron executive, Bethany McLean, begins with the tragic concept of the pervasive fatal flaw, hubris, and applies it meticulously to the tragic figures Ken Lay, Andrew Skilling, and Andrew Fastow. Tragic in the sense that those talented executives allowed the company to fall while they lined their pockets with the assets of its 20, 000 employees, countless investors, and the state of California, which suffered mammoth losses due to its new energy deregulation and manipulation of that energy by Enron.

The documentary succeeds in explaining the crimes while lacing the story with just enough drama to make suspenseful the outcome we all know before we view the film: Fastow is doing time, Lay and Skilling await trial, former employees work past their retirement ages because their pensions have been gobbled up by the crimes, and California now regulates its energy but still suffers from massive deficit.

The documentary fails when it manipulates its audience with background songs that dramatize the obvious ironies, e.g.' "Son of a Preacher Man" plays during Lay's biography. Such skewering is almost impossible to avoid once a documentarian picks up a camera and selects the images; what he doesn't have to do is underscore the irony—The players will do it all on their own. It also seems to hold back on the cozy relationship between Lay and the Bush family. Perhaps another time.

Meanwhile, this documentary is compelling viewing of a tragedy about a company, as one of the talking heads describes, that was "a house of cards . . . built over a pool of gasoline." It is enjoyable to see it figuratively torched like the House of Wax.


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