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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Weiner Review

Salute The Weiner

In 2011, former United States Representative from New York Anthony Weiner seemed destined for a long and distinguished political career (cue dick jokes here). But after a sexting scandal caused his resignation from public office, Weiner's prospects appeared a bit, well... flaccid. Despite the odds, the former congressman returned to the public spotlight just two years later, setting his sights on becoming the mayor of New York City. And in 2013, he was the favorite to win that election, but his penis got in the way... again.

"Weiner," a new documentary directed by Josh Kriegman (a former aide to the congressman) and Elyse Steinberg, tells the story of Weiner's political demise as it's unfolding. And it's as entertaining (if uncomfortable) a film to watch as anything else you're likely to see this year.  

This stranger-than-fiction account begins with Weiner announcing his return to politics with a mayoral run in his home town of New York City. Two years earlier, the congressman had sent a link to a picture of his package to a 21-year-old female follower on Twitter. After initially denying that he had sent the pic, he later held a press conference where he apologized and admitted exchanging sexually explicit photos and messages with about six women over the preceding three years. At first, he had hoped to remain in office, but after much public outcry, he stepped down from his position ten days later. At this point, his political career looked a bit limp. But it wasn't dead. At least not yet. Apparently it just needed some Viagra.
Fast forward to two years later, and it's on to race for mayor, and Weiner, having been forgiven by the public, finds himself the favorite to win it. And then, it's deja-vu all over again. But this time, there's a flesh-and-blood real woman going public with their online dalliances. Sydney Weathers is on the cover of all the New York newspapers and making appearances everywhere, in hope of becoming famous as a stripper/porn star; as the woman who brought down the mighty Weiner. But this time, it looks like Weiner is down for the count. He plummets to last in the race for mayor.

What makes Weiner the man, and "Weiner" the film, special is that the story doesn't end there. The man doesn't go into hiding or disappear from public view. And the film captures this as well. The embattled former politician argues with and confronts everyone who gets in his face and amazingly, you can't help but root for him against the media and the paparazzi and the other assorted idiots who think he'll be easy prey. Many politicians before him have been caught in various dalliances and have survived. At least Weiner's indiscretions were all virtual - he never even met any of his lady friends in person. It was all a case of getting a little too carried away in the decidedly less than anonymous world of social media.

The only thing that prevents this entire story from being great comedy is the tragic figure of Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife (and a close associate of Hillary Clinton). Huma stands by her man steadfastly through the entire ordeal. And though she says very little, her face reveals her pain. She comes across as a beautiful, graceful, and wonderful woman, who for whatever reason, hangs in there, hoping against hope that her social butterfly of a husband would just put that caterpillar back in the cocoon.

"Weiner" is incredibly entertaining in story and in how it captures the rollercoaster ride of events and emotions. The fact that Weiner gave access to this crew to film all of it while his world was crashing in around him says something about his personality and resilience. He is unable to stay out of trouble and has no qualms about letting us watch. He is an exhibitionist in every way and we are the beneficiaries. "Weiner" stands tall.

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