Former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner was known as a firebrand congressman from New York. He was respected for speaking out for the middle class. He married Hillary Clinton’s most trusted advisor, Huma Abedin, and the ceremony was performed by President Bill Clinton. He was a rising star in the Democratic Party, and big things were on the horizon for him. All that came crashing down when he found himself in a texting scandal in 2011 where Weiner was shown to have had sex conversations with a number of women, often sending inappropriate pictures of himself naked. He was forced to resign amid the scandal, which, because of his name, became fodder for every comedian on TV. His life would never be the same, and his wife came close to divorcing him.
Then the unthinkable came. In 2013, Anthony Weiner decided to run for mayor of New York City. Even more amazing was that documentary filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Sternberg were given unlimited access to Weiner’s life and campaign. A funny thing happened on the campaign trail, Weiner, with the help of his wife, started to lead in the polls. Could he actually win the Democratic nomination in one of the world’s largest cities?
This is a fascinating film that is at times hilarious, cringe-worthy, and very often sad. Right from the start the filmmakers are given access that no other politician would allow. At first, I thought that he would allow the documentary because he needed the coverage to help his campaign, but as I
watched more of this film, I decided that it’s just his need to be the center of attention. I think that’s what makes this movie so engaging to watch; it’s a train wreck that is moving down the tracks, and you know the wreck is going to happen at some point. You want to look away but can’t help yourself. And that wreck does happen, in the form of more inappropriate texts, this time to a wannabe porn actress, all done after he had resigned from Congress. That the man would continue to make these mistakes is the most amazing thing about this story. In fact, if this was a fictional movie, I would probably not believe the plot. However, this is real, and we get to see every gut-wrenching moment as Anthony Weiner goes from front-runner to once again the punchline of late-night talk-show hosts.
We get to see the campaign behind the scenes with Weiner doing telephone interviews. The mounting frustration of Wiener is seen on his face as he has to answer question after question on the 2011 scandal while he tries to redirect the subject to the issues of government and his campaign. There are interviews with his campaign staff, most of whom look like they have just graduated college, and they seem passionate about Wiener and his campaign. One campaign worker talks about if Huma can forgive Anthony, then who is she to judge him. One of the more compelling scenes is where Weiner and his wife are getting upset with each other when making phone calls to raise money. Weiner’s conversations with his staff are revealing, especially as the new scandal starts coming out. It’s very apparent that Weiner considers himself the smartest man in the room, rarely taking his staff’s suggestions or plans.
While Anthony Weiner is the front and center character of the film, the far more fascinating person in the film is Huma. When the film opens, the husband and wife are playing with their child, but there is almost no interaction between Anthony and Huma. Most of the conversations that they have on camera are short, and one sided with Anthony doing most of the talking. One of the most telling scenes in the film is when Anthony has appeared on a national talk show and has lost his temper on camera. He looks very foolish on camera and after the event, he goes home to watch it on a DVR. He thinks his position is right, Huma at one point tells him point blank that he looked like an idiot on camera. There are a number of uncomfortable moments between Anthony and Huma, where he tries to engage her in conversation, or in his campaign, and she retreats more and more into the background, giving off an icy presence.
The filmmakers choose not to give us a reason or background on why Weiner would act this way (though I certainly think he is a narcissist). There isn’t any information given on his childhood, his education or even much about his years as a congressman. There are no psychiatrists interviewed to explain why he would keep self-destructing or a sociologist talking about why people and the media latch so hard onto scandals, especially about sex. Instead, “Weiner” gives an unflinching look at a man and a political life crash and burn up in flames. It’s a brilliant film that even the filmmakers are amazed at the amount of access they have gotten. Near the end of the film, one of the filmmakers asks Weiner off camera “Why have you let us film this?” Weiner doesn’t have an answer, and we don’t either, but we get a movie that is mesmerizing to watch. My Take: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas
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