Sunday, March 27, 2016

“Weiner”– Movie Review


In the closing weekend of The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films series, I attended a screening of the new documentary “Weiner” about disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner. 


When politician Anthony Weiner attempts a professional comeback, will he succeed?


As a United States Congressman from New York City, Anthony Weiner was a progressive Democrat in The House Of Representatives who worked hard for his constituents and was unafraid to mix it up with various members of The Republican Party, going toe to toe with them both in The House and on political television shows.  Perhaps his best or most famous moment came in 2010 when he vehemently argued in favor of funding medical assistance for the heroes of September 11th when the Republicans tried to block it due to the fact that they opposed a corporate tax increase.  A deeply flawed human being, it eventually became evident that his passions were in no way confined to politics alone. 

When it was uncovered in 2011 that Weiner, a married man whose wife was then expecting their first child, had been sexting with young single women, he was forced to resign from Congress.  Weiner had resisted this from the beginning of the scandal, initially denying any wrongdoing – but when growing evidence mounted, it could no longer be denied.  His wife, Huma, had been publicly embarrassed; a successful woman who works as Hillary Clinton’s loyal and trusted aide, she is a deeply private person who never seeks the spotlight – unlike her meretricious and ambitious husband. 

Two years later, Weiner decides he can revive his political career by running for Mayor of New York City.  Believing New Yorkers will be willing to forgive if not forget, Weiner is convinced the people of the city will give him the second chance he so sorely feels he deserves.  But in order to do so, he must make Huma, normally a behind-the-scenes type of person, go out front-and-center in his campaign.  Surprisingly, Weiner takes an early lead among the many candidates in a crowded Democratic field.  But when news breaks of a second sexting scandal with another young woman, can Weiner’s campaign and marriage survive yet another humiliation?


When watching the crash and burn of what had otherwise been the promising political career of Anthony Weiner, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or gasp in horror.  Perhaps both reactions are appropriate.  By the end of this documentary, Weiner has no one to blame but himself, which he seems to know.  One question that the film never adequately answers is why his wife Huma stayed with him even after the second scandal.  It might be because she doesn’t know herself.  Possibly the only thing keeping the marriage intact at this point is the fact that she’s out of the home much of the time working on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

The discomfort viewers may feel watching this documentary is deserved; you are always aware that you’re observing a sleazy soap opera – a car wreck from which you cannot turn away precisely because you don’t want to turn away.  While horrified by it, it is also simultaneously entertaining.  Weiner should be ashamed, of course, but perhaps, we also share in that shame because we have allowed his personal misfortunes to be a source of amusement for all of us.  If he is in fact nothing more than the punchline to a joke at this point, both the media and the public are complicit in putting him in that position. 

Following the screening, there was an interview with the documentarians Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg.  Kriegman said that he had worked as Weiner’s Chief Of Staff during a couple of his years in Congress; leaving politics to pursue a filmmaking career, he reached out to Weiner after the initial scandal that forced him out of office in 2011 and proposed a documentary to allow his former boss to give his side of the story.  Ultimately, Weiner declined, but when announcing his intention to run for Mayor in 2013, he contacted Kriegman to shoot the documentary about what he assumed would be his resurrection – but instead resulted in another crushing fiasco. 

Weiner (2016) on IMDb

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