When in doubt, politicians shouldn’t tweet pictures of their body or text women other than their spouse. New York congressman Anthony Weiner is a living testament to that and the focus of Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary, "Weiner", about his ill-fated 2013 New York mayoral run.
Documentaries are at their best when they present a topic you know little to nothing about and suddenly make that topic explode in front of your eyes. By the end of the movie, you are craving more material and needing to know more about the subject. Before I turned on "Weiner", I knew little about this man. By the end, I couldn’t wait to hear more or see where he was at. This is a riveting and brutally honest look at a smart man undone by painfully poor decision making. I’m not sure anyone beats Weiner in the smartest dumb politician race.
When we first see Weiner, he is standing up for 9/11 rescue workers in the Barack Obama health care bill that wished to stop paying those heroic men and women. Weiner is a fast talking New Yorker who stormed into politics with a vengeance only to set his own career on fire. Remember the five minutes he got in front of Congress and basically lit a Will McAvoy like forest fire in that room by calling out Republicans for turning their back on the real heroes. He was riding high until he had to step down after a picture tweeted out of his account of his crotch burned everything he built to the ground. The worst thing about it was he lied at first and then admitted later.
Two years later, he tried to run for mayor and was leading in the polls before a second scandal attacked him, this time from a woman known to the public as Sydney Feathers came out about Weiner texting her scandalous material. He never recovered and lost the race. This doc peers into the internal workings of his campaign amid the backlash from the public and the constant media attention for everything BUT politics.
At one point, a political talk show host simply asks Weiner, “What is wrong with you?” It is a good question that Weiner rejects as an attack and pivots away from. It’s an honest request because the man is sharp as a whip and was a tough politician. The problem is he liked showing parts of himself to people that weren’t his wife, Huma Abedin. A former Congressional aide to current Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, Huma is mostly seen in the background trying to put on a positive exterior but is a woman quietly burning inside.
You’ll keep watching because no matter how many times he messes up, Weiner gets more entertaining to watch. Instead of moving away from oncoming punches, Weiner decides to step into each shot and go to the mat and gradually pick himself up. At one point, his PR campaign chief even tells him winning isn’t a possibility and the slow crumble in Weiner’s face serves as an epilogue for the film. He knows what he is doing is wrong and keeps doing it. He says to the camera at one point, “I have a virtual ability to the do the wrong over and over.” A mantra that can’t be stopped but never becomes painful to watch.
The most interesting parts are watching the aides and assistants around him quietly gather themselves during his downfalls. Seeing Huma look pain stricken several times on camera and smiling at the onside brush of negativity coming towards her husband is thought provoking television. It almost makes you crave a sequel. Do they make those in the world of documentaries?
"Weiner" is best enjoyed as a classic fable about what not to do in politics. It didn’t matter how great his plan was to turn New York around. Once he lost the public’s trust, it was open season and this documentary doesn’t pull one single punch. It’s a brilliant ode to one of the most painful if entertaining Greek tragedies in the world of politics.
"Weiner" opens at Plaza Frontenac on Friday, May 27. Take a look at the trailer below.