I don’t know. Because I lied to them. Because I have a funny name.
Weiner is the wonderful new documentary that explores the downfall of New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. The documentary covers the early parts of the story in quick cuts and broad strokes; Weiner’s rise to notoriety as a firebrand in Congress & his resignation as a laughing stock in the aftermath of a scandal involving texted pictures of his genitals. The filmmaker get access to the candidate as he preps for his triumphant return to politics in the NYC mayoral race in 2013 and they’re there for the every cringe-inducing, hilarious, painful moment of the collapse as more pictures surface. This film certainly humanizes the people at its center, not least of all Weiner, but it never really makes them sympathetic. You’ll see Weiner as a more complicated, decidedly troubled human being when this film is over, but you still won’t really understand him. Sometimes this can be a problem with documentaries, ie. Alex Gibney’s Lance Armstrong documentary or Errol Morris’ Donald Rumsfield picture. But it really works here beautifully. You see Weiner as a charismatic politician and as a controlling husband; a frustrated ideologue and an arrogant asshole; an empathetic crusader & a self-absorbed narcissist. And then you’re left to pick up the pieces and puzzle over the man and his decisions. The portrait of Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is no less compelling; to the degree there’s an audience surrogate, she’s it, constantly baffled, angered and saddened by her husband’s failings and poor decisions, but even she is often ambiguous in her actions. Sydney Leathers, the young woman that torpedoes the mayoral campaign, gets a fair amount of screen time and she somehow manages to be even more loathsome and psychologically damaged than Weiner himself. The film is thought-provoking in the way that it explores the nature of political campaigns and scandals. It’s painful and cringe-inducing when it looks at Weiner’s unselfawareness or the strained marriage to Abedin. And it’s often hilariously funny in dark and twisted ways as you watch Weiner’s campaign staffers struggling to deal with the horrible ramifications of the revelations. It’s a documentary you’ll watch on the edge of your seat, grimacing with discomfort and laughing, sometimes at the same time. And the final scene . . . it’s a moment that’s absolutely perfect; it left me sitting in my chair absolutely gobsmacked, with my mouth hanging open. Weiner the man is a strange, fascinating, complicated figure; this movie about him is all of those things too and a must see. 4 stars.
tl;dr – behind the scenes look at political sex scandal is compelling drama, edge of your seat suspense, painfully funny cringe comedy and a thought-provoking psychological study; a must see. 4 stars.