Published Apr 29, 2016Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's Weiner is the pop political documentary of the year, a fly-on-the-wall look at disgraced former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner's run for New York City mayor. The story is a goldmine for the filmmakers, a firestorm of controversy, spectacle, politics and the follies of desire in the digital age.
At the centre of it all is Weiner himself, a walking disaster of a man who can't help but sabotage every good move he makes, and manages to squander every bit of good will he's built for himself. It's one of those "you can't make this stuff up" kinds of documentaries, where the twists come fast and often, but it also works as an epic tragic satire about marriage and life in the public eye. Like the best documentary filmmakers, all Kriegman and Steinberg had to do was hit record.
The film begins with the fallout of Weiner's 2011 sexting scandal, starting with his cringe-worthy "bulge" photo tweet and the aftermath, where it was revealed he had been sending sexually explicit messages to multiple women over the span of a few years. After resigning from Congress, the always-boisterous Weiner remained silent for about a year before hitting the comeback trail to run for mayor.
Weiner has a tremendous sense of momentum. Kriegman and Steinberg follow him as he launches a grassroots campaign, positioning himself as a Brooklyn boy made good, but even the arrogant, sometimes explosive Weiner can't predict what's about to happen next. Just after the first round of polls, more sexting allegations emerge, sending Weiner on the defense. He starts to grow increasingly angry with reporters, even getting annoyed with the filmmakers on-camera.
Ostensibly, Kriegman and Steinberg are painting a portrait of a man who struggles with what parts of his personality are real and which ones are fake, but the heart of the film is Weiner's wife, the always-suffering Huma Abedin. A longtime aide for Hillary Clinton, Abedin is trying to figure out her own political future, and grows increasingly exasperated with Weiner as he brings his campaign down in epic fashion. She's the one who has to deal with the painful consequences of his actions, and the film's beating heart is found in her subtle struggles to stay with him as more controversies emerge.
Weiner is sure to please audiences. It's a political race that also works as epic human drama, thanks to the unprecedented access Kriegman and Steinberg had to their subject. They managed to be there at the right time, just before the second scandal erupted. So while watching Weiner trying to put on a brave face despite slipping in the polls becomes exhausting as the film wears on, Weiner remains an engrossing look at the modern day political process, and one of the best documentaries of the year.