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Weiner - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A

"What is wrong with you?" asks MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, interviewing Anthony Weiner the night before the election for New York City Mayor in 2013, for which Weiner was running. It could be easily argued that O'Donnell treated Weiner unfairly in that interview. But it's a fair question.

Anthony Weiner is a truly fascinating individual, and the documentary feature film Weiner paints an incisive, riveting portrait of a man who seems entirely unaware of how truly narcissistic he is. Some people are very calculated about these things, and Weiner doesn't seem to be. It's just his default setting, and then he seems surprised that the media won't focus on the "middle class people" he insists he's working for.

And that's just the thing: he actually is. In the opening credits, we see clips of the former Congressman from New York, putting others in Congress in their place: among the leftiest of the left, he was a rising superstar. He pulled no punches and he called people out for their hypocrisy and their bullshit. That's what made it all the more interesting to discover he was also full of hypocrisy and bullshit. A resurgence of the sexting scandal, revealing he had continued even after resigning from Congress, occurred in the middle of his campaign for Mayor of New York City. Naturally this is all the media wants to talk about, and Weiner's desperate attempts to get them to focus on the not-at-all-juicy issues of his campaign are just as fascinating as the scandals themselves.

The thing is, this documentary began filming before the mayoral campaign was launched -- before the second wave of his scandal broke. So, we get to watch how going through all of this a second time affects Weiner, his political powerhouse wife Huma Abedin, and his campaign staff -- as it happens. Abedin baffles many by remaining at his side, at least until very late in the campaign. Very little of the extensive behind-the-scenes footage of her shows her looking very happy.

And it's stunning that Weiner allowed so much of his disgrace to be filmed. And I don't mean "disgrace" in the way many people likely assume -- plenty of his potential voters actually couldn't care less about what texts or photos he sent to however many women (a number people attempt to nail down but never quite settle on). It truly has no bearing on his job and the work he does as an elected official, and the only time it cuts into his work time is when the media hounds him about it. But the flip side is how stunningly out of touch with reality Weiner seems to be -- in spite of his acknowledgment of how the media are just doing what they exist to do -- and how he is apparently a pathological liar. These latter issues are really why those who supported him during the initial wave of scandal later turned on him, and he went from leading in the polls to coming in last in the mayoral race with less than five percent of the vote.

As such, Weiner just gets progressively more and more uncomfortable to watch. It's essentially a document of one man's spectacular flame-out. The tension between Weiner and Abedin gets thicker and thicker. We see equally tense meetings between him and his campaign staff. Near the end of the film, the man behind the camera asks him point blank, "Why did you let me film this?" It's a question likely to occur to any viewer of the film far before it's heard said out loud. And we never see Anthony Weiner provide an answer.

I guess Anthony Weiner himself is the answer. He acknowledges himself that anyone who gets into politics must have some innate need for attention, but this guy takes it to a new level. He gets so fed up with all the controversy that he stupidly throws caution to the wind in the midst of his campaign, allowing himself to be filmed as he gets into a shouting match with a guy at a local deli. Later he literally flips off reporters through a car window. But if he really hated all this media attention, he would have stepped out of the race once it became clear it was far more about his salacious activities than it ever was or ever could be about the "issues" he purported to fight for. He professes to understand why the media behaves the way they do, and then constantly gets drawn into their traps.

Weiner couldn't be any more train-wreck mesmerizing if it were literally footage of a train wreck. This guy starts off being lots of fun to watch, for a multitude of reasons, and progressively becomes a genuinely tragic figure -- in large part due to some very skilled editing. This movie tells a very spectacular, very American, very 21st-century story of a rising star who crashes and burns in an epic fashion.

Anthony Weiner can't get enough of WEINER.

Overall: A-
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