At the end of August this year, the wife of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner had finally had enough. Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s aide, had stuck by Weiner through 6 years as he ran for New York mayor – even though he was involved in two scandals for living up to his name and sending pictures of his, ahem, weiner, to ladies. After new allegations came out about even more sexting this year, even going so far as to send a crotch shot with his young son sleeping beside him, he has been rightly ‘dumped’ by Abedin. But who is the man behind the Weiner?
Out now on DVD comes Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Weiner, with the bulk of the film following Weiner’s 2013 mayoral campaign. Often presented as a comedy and even described by the New York Post as a ‘Spinal Tap of politics’, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or yell at the screen as this sexually-charged buffoon single-handedly brings down his own campaign through his inability to keep ‘it’ in his pants. Excruciating to watch, the film does not shy away from showing the increasingly stressful and exhausting campaign and unfolding scandals – with only a couple of instances of the cameras being sent out. Say what you want about Weiner, the perverted clown – but you can’t help but feel a little bit of respect for his self-immolation. It’s brave putting yourself out there and admitting all this embarrassing and personal shit in a film that could reach the entire world. He lets himself be filmed while he’s abused on the street, alongside emotional quiet moments alone where he cannot believe he’s allowing ‘a documentary about his scandals’. That takes balls.
His long-suffering wife however, Huma, had apparently not wanted any of her footage to be used in the film. In the topsy turvy world of Hollywood and politics combined, you never know who is telling the truth – the film’s counsel claim that all consent had been acquired, whereas Weiner himself claimed his then-wife had not granted permission and the film had violated this. You can understand her reluctance to share, the film is full of tense and emotionally-charged personal moments between the two. When asked in an interview by the NY Times whether Weiner was considering suing the filmmakers for this violation, he said “who knows what happens in the future”. No lawsuits came to light and now that Huma has gone her own way, it’s unlikely Weiner will ever sue. He’s got bigger and more important things to do, like send more photos of his ...
Anyway, let’s discuss the film. It’s a hard one to review because in terms of filmmaking, there isn’t a lot to say. It’s very much a fly-on-the-wall tale, with cameras following Weiner around – shaking, zooming and quickly moving to capture any ‘action’ that might come up. When a pedestrian stops Weiner in the film to ask why he’s being filmed and if he is ‘somebody they should know’, he replies that even he doesn’t know why they’re filming him most of the time and makes some self-deprecating comment (as he always does) about how he used to be someone. Weiner comes off as a somewhat sympathetic character on occasion but quickly ruins that by exposing himself once again and taking 10 steps back in his campaign – but hey, with a name like Weiner, it gives the newspapers endless opportunities for headlines.
As the credits roll, it’s hard to say whether you’ve just watched a comedy or a tragedy. Sure, we can laugh at the incompetence of Weiner, or get angry at his unfaithfulness to his wife. And don’t get me wrong, he is a dick – just like his name suggests, but we’ve all made mistakes and his dedication to push forward no matter what is almost inspiring. It’s just a shame he seems completely unable to learn from past mistakes. He’s certainly a fascinating character and one of the more deserving documentary subjects of recent years. It’s only a matter of time until we get a full-on biopic. Who could play Weiner? As a film, Weiner is a strong documentary and really makes you feel like you’re right there in the room with Anthony Weiner – whether that be a good thing or not.
Engrossing, entertaining, funny and sad – Weiner is the full package. 5/5
Samuel M. Love
Weiner at CeX
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