Throughout Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's insightful, entertaining documentary Weiner you'll be asking one question: Why would Anthony Weiner subject himself to this level of scrutiny? Well, you're not alone; he wonders the same thing right in the film's opening moments. By the end of the film the audience has come to some kind of answer to that riddle, but the answers are obvious if you've been paying attention to the clown car that is our current political climate. Weiner is the perfect film for this campaign season, and maybe the best political horror ever. Have there been others?
Liberals loved Anthony Weiner. He was a vocal, fiery, compassionate member of Congress who never met a camera he didn't want to mug in front of. But for all of his showboating, he was a powerful voice for those who didn't have a voice in this country. Then the sexting scandal hit, he was humiliated (his last name didn't help) enough that he dropped out of office, and that was supposed to be it. The film takes place during his attempted comeback during the 2013 race for New York City mayor. That's what this was supposed to be; Weiner's comeback story. But then more pics of Weiner’s weiner hit Twitter right in the middle of the campaign, and let's just say his chances of winning were pretty limp thereafter.
Weiner is a fascinating look at one man's absolute addiction to the media spotlight, and how that addiction led to his downfall. But it's also about how our media loves to kick someone when they're down. They could care less about what the man stood for, unless it's in the context of destroying him. What's interesting about Weiner is that he seems to recognize this, and yet still plays into their hands. He talks constantly about getting "out of a defensive crouch' and fighting back against the negative headlines, the biased reporting, and jokes at his expense. But nobody cares if he fights back. In one telling scene, Weiner unleashes double barrels on MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, who asks the ridiculous question, "What's wrong with you, Anthony?" The result? Weiner looked like a madman, never mind that O'Donnell was deliberately being a prick.
Did that stop Weiner from leaping headlong into more lopsided coverage from obvious media enemies? Of course not. He can't help himself, much to the chagrin of poised and clearly embarrassed wife, Huma Abedin. The Hillary Clinton confidante stands by her husband publicly, but privately she's in Hell, or as she puts it one morning, "it's like living a nightmare". While Weiner always comes off as a bit shady, and definitely like a glory hound, you can't help but feel for Huma as she's paraded in front of cameras to stand by her husband time and time again, looking like a deer in headlights. The worst comes when Weiner's opportunistic sexting partner Sidney Leathers comes trolling around their campaign headquarters, with Huma trapped inside so as to avoid a public confrontation. It's all political theater, in a way, but on a personal level it must be humiliating.
Rating: 4 out of 5