4 June 2016 | paul-allaer
"Why did you let me film this?"
"Weiner" (2016 release; 96 min.) is a documentary about disgraced new York politician Anthony Weiner (pronounced: "wiener", not "whiner"). As the movie opens, we have Weiner in an interview chair, talking to the documentary makers. We then go back to 2011, when we get a thumbnail overview of how a sexting scandal led to his resignation from US Congress. We then shift to "May 13, 2013, two years after his resignation". Weiner is about to enter the race for New York Mayor, and along the way decided to give unlimited access to these documentary makers during his campaign. By then you are already nailed to your seat as you watch what is unfolding.
Couple of comments: this is the first full-length documentary for co-writer and directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg. While the comeback attempt in and of itself would've made for riveting viewing, can you imagine how they felt when smack in the middle of the unfolding campaign, another controversy explodes? It doesn't get any better than this for documentaries (on the same level as "The Armstrong Lie" about Lance Armstrong and "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" about Wilco). There are so many fine moments in this documentary, and I certainly don't want to spoil your viewing experience, but allow me to just point out two scenes: there is a very clever montage of Weiner's campaign taking a foothold and gaining track (to the point of leading the polls), set to the "Theme of S.W.A.T.", and it works beautifully. Even better is the scene between Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin when the second controversy explodes. Ah yes, the wife. Normal people like you and me immediately think: why on earth does she decide to stick by her man, time and again, humiliation upon humiliation? Then it dawns on me: these are not 'normal' people like you and me. Huma stays with Weiner the same reason Hillary stayed with Bill: it's all about the power! These career politicians know one thing, and one thing only: get the power, and stay in power, whatever means necessary, whatever personal sacrifice is needed along the way. When the final curtain comes down (Weiner obviously did not win the mayoral election), one of the directors asks Weiner "why did you let me film all this?". You'll just have to see for yourself how Weiner responds to this... Bottom line: if you like documentaries, you will absolutely love this riveting look at a disgraced politician whose narcissistic personality disorder is fully exposed here.
"Weiner" made a splash when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and I couldn't wait to see it. It finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Saturday matinée screening where I saw this at was attended poorly, to my surprise. Maybe strong word-of-mouth (which this movie surely generates) will lead to wider exposure down the road through VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. Meanwhile, "Weiner" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!