Anthony Weiner is interesting. He is an anti-hero in the mold of Tony Soprano or Walter White. Teetering somewhere between compulsion and total self-awareness, documenting him seems like it would be a challenge. You would aim to capture something real, but how can you know whether that’s what you are getting? In some ways, Weiner succeeds whether it is an accurate portrayal of the former New York Congressman or not. If it is all a façade, then that almost tells us more about the man than if he had let us in. As is, there is no way to really know, but Weiner entertains regardless.
The film opens with images of him at home with his family and quickly recounts some of the sordid drama that preceded the filming. After Weiner was involved in a Twitter/sexting controversy, the film follows his run for Mayor of New York City, as he tries to rescue his political career and normalize his personal life. The blur between the two is the most fascinating aspect--as public and private become irreparably enmeshed.
Like any film, there is an effort to give context and paint a full picture. One of the slickest sequences presents the noise machine that surrounds his political career now—Twitter, tabloids and cable news all combine to gin up public interest in his story. Throughout, you get the sense that he is both annoyed at and enamored with this attention. The film’s climax comes as Election Day nears and new allegations emerge, complicating his efforts. How it all plays out is a matter of history now, but this inside look is compelling even without mystery.
And while the man remains something of an enigma throughout, the clearest portrait is of the collateral damage done to those around him. His equally fascinating wife and his doting staff were all impacted by his actions and it is interesting to consider why they were all still around.
In the case of Huma, his devoted wife who also happens to be a top aide to Hillary Clinton, she is perhaps even more mysterious. Her role in the documentary is to be there, but not to be heard from much. It is obvious that her buy-in for the documentary is minimal and in some ways, that is almost more interesting. Like a diary, what a documentary leaves out can be just as intriguing as what it includes.
The film does a beautiful job isolating him throughout. In one scene, he is shown yelling back at Lawrence O’Donnell in an empty room while they shoot an interview remotely. Whatever your thoughts on his politics, you can’t help but see his humanity, narcissistic warts and all. The film’s overall message seems open to interpretation, but it is an interesting look behind the curtain and into a guy who just might be unknowable.
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