Review: Weiner (USA 2016)

This documentary contains some fascinating material on the failed Anthony Weiner 2013 mayoral run in New York, though I was not overly impressed with the way, at least in the early going, the filmmakers put their thumb on the scale in order to create the impression that the Weiner campaign had overwhelming momentum prior to the scandal breaking.

For example, contrasting a shot of (eventual Mayor) Bill De Blasio marching and waving in a parade with a shot of Weiner dancing around and shaking hands at a similar event while non-diegetic triumphant music plays on the soundtrack. Watching the footage, it’s clear that the addition of music completely re-contextualizes the scene – I doubt one would look “triumphant” and the other “pathetic” without the music telling us what to think. A little like making a character look gross by showing close-ups of them eating – it’s too easy. There’s a bit too much of that kind of thing going on.

That said, once the second sexting scandal hits and the film turns into a fly-on-the-wall recording of the complete meltdown of Weiner’s campaign and life, the footage is absolutely engrossing. Weiner alternately squirms and lashes out at his tormentors, desperately trying to turn the campaign around, while his wife Huma Abedin stands by, clearly absolutely miserable. In a lot of ways, Abedin is the most interesting and sympathetic person in the film. Weiner is just a gross narcissistic schmuck who let everyone down; she’s the smart, competent one who props him up in his initial run and doesn’t look comfortable even being in the same room with him after the revelations come out.

Well worth seeing, even if you’re not that familiar with the underlying scandal. Especially as the Weiner saga never seems to end – he just recently pled guilty to sexting with an underage girl, making him legally a sex offender. And, also worth seeing because Weiner and Abedin have what may be the cutest cat I’ve ever seen.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars (Good).

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