Fascinating, funny but insufficiently probing documentary about the disgraced US politician
If, as is suggested, a man’s fate is shaped by his name, disgraced US politician Anthony Weiner was doomed to become a punchline. His rise and fall, his comeback and, unbelievably, his even more spectacularly scandalous undoing, is entertaining, mortifying and like watching a car crash, in slow motion, over and over again.
Weiner, you may recall, was a rising Democratic star in the US House of Representatives in 2011, a scrappy, impassioned man of the people. Then a selfie of Weiner’s crotch appeared on Twitter. Initially he was evasive about whether or not those were his underpants. But he ‘fessed up, publicly apologised to his pregnant wife and vowed to go on, until he was forced to resign. Cut to 2013 and Weiner startlingly re-emerged, announcing his candidacy for Mayor of his native New York. His articulate pleas for a ‘second chance’ resonated with New Yorkers and soon he was the improbable frontrunner in the race. And then...
The most fascinating player in this comedy drama of a documentary is Weiner’s clever, elegant, long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin, long-time Hillary Clinton aide and currently one of her key campaign figures. Her face speaks volumes while she stoically supports Anthony through escalating humiliations. One concludes she might like to kill him but can’t help but love him.
The film’s strength is also its weakness. Co-director and writer Josh Kriegman used to work for Weiner, hence extraordinary access throughout what started as a gutsy, feel-good political redemption story, before the unscripted explosion of lewd selfies, ‘sext’ messages and attention-seeking bimbos changed the landscape. The right questions are asked about politicians, privacy and social media. But they are not pressed forcefully, the filmmakers presumably a mite too sympathetic and embarrassed to provoke, and many go unanswered. Contrite Weiner tries to face it out, ambitious Weiner loses his temper, rueful Weiner reflects and deflects about what happened – his compulsions and lies never satisfactorily addressed. A cautionary tale that is funny, sad, absurd and decidedly of our time, it’s one for political junkies.
Selected release from Fri 8 Jul.