Weiner (2016)

Weiner (2016) movie poster

directors Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
viewed: 11/21/2016

Like a lot of people, I suspect, I felt like I’ve heard enough about Anthony Weiner to last a lifetime.  However, the consistent positive buzz about Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner swayed me enough to watch it.

Wow.  It’s terrific.

Anthony Weiner is another Democratic politician brought down by a sex scandal.  Unlike Eliot Spitzer, it’s not entirely clear if Weiner’s work would have been as noble, and the documentary, at least from the outside, seemed like maybe the story wasn’t actually finished (given his looming presence late in the 2016 election cycle), but that is not the case.

Kriegman and Steinberg originally began shooting the film as “flies on the wall” during Weiner’s comeback run for NYC mayor in 2013.  This comeback was on the tail of his sexting scandal that forced him out of Congress in 2011.  Initially a hopeful document, the story turns deeply sour and absurdly comic as Weiner’s continued sexting, including lots of NSFW selfies (how of the moment is this story?) proved that he’s got problems with self-control and apparently “reality” that would ruin anybody’s chances not just in politics but in other aspects of life.

This is not just the Anthony Weiner show, though.  It’s also time for a close-up on his wife Huma Abedin, noted Hillary Clinton associate whose visibility has always been quite high though she tended to stay just outside of the spotlight.  Here she is caught, not a deer in headlights, but on camera during some very embarrassing moments as she realizes her husband’s secret infidelities on very public stage.  Watching her largely impassive face hold back more extreme expressions is one of the film’s most weird rewards.  That she continued to back him shows either devout love, poor decision making, commitment to a coordinated front and a political face, or maybe some mad mixture of all of those things.

Kriegman and Steinberg wound up with a story and access by starting their documentary with one aim while the world turned critically during filming.  It’s not unlike The Queen of Versailles (2012) in that regard.  And what it captures is perhaps the most vivid slow-motion train wreck imaginable.  One chock-full of absurdities that become brutally comic.  Weiner’s inability to realize how bankrupt his integrity and bankability as a candidate for any political office stuns one.

And as the film comes to a close and the directors question him about why he allowed them this access underscores his megalomania and outright foolishness.

This is one of the best, most hilarious, sublime documentaries I’ve seen in some time.  Highly recommended.

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