I’m the type of person that does everything possible to avoid watching movie trailers. They tend to ruin films for me by giving away too much of the story. Similarly, I tend to steer away from documentaries about recent current events, because I lose interest very quickly when I know how the story ends. That was my fear when I sat down to watch Weiner, the new film about Anthony Weiner’s attempt to win the 2013 New York City Mayoral election. My concerns were misplaced because this documentary is as captivating as watching a car wreck in slow motion. It is a fascinating combination of abused trust and unexpected luck.
Anthony Weiner was a well-respected politician from Brooklyn, New York. He was elected to the New York City Council before he was 30 years old, and then to the United States House of Representatives by the time he was 35. His style of aggressively fighting for lower and middle income citizens won him accolades and got him reelected many times before he was forced to resign in 2011 due to a sexting scandal. The situation became front page news, not because of the severity of his actions, but because of his unfortunate surname that made for a never ending barrage of spectacular and sexually suggestive headlines. Had a fictional movie script been written with this much sexual innuendo, studio executives would have dismissed it as silly, proving, once again, that fact is far stranger than fiction.
After a couple of years out of the spotlight, Mr. Weiner decided to reenter the political fray by running for Mayor of New York City. The film makers were given unrestricted permission to document his election effort, and almost equal access to his personal life. When the documentary opens we see that the candidate is doing very well in the polls because the voters realize that his positions and experience are more important than his past indiscretion. His wife, Huma Abedin, equally famous in political circles for her involvement with Hillary Clinton, has also moved on from their previous marital problems. From an occupational point of view, she is fully involved with and supportive of the campaign. From a personal point of view, the two have started a family together and appear close and happy.
Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll say that Mr. Weiner is not able to put his problems fully behind him. We get to watch a personal and professional tragedy unfold in real time, as he goes from a high energy candidate to a beaten and frustrated man. The film almost dares you to enjoy watching him self-destruct. The directors did an excellent of job of making sure the film unfolds smoothly. Archived footage, including clips from well know NYC personalities such as Howard Stern, are interspersed sparingly to keep the viewer informed as to the mindset of the city during the campaign.
When I mentioned “unexpected luck” in the first paragraph, I was referring to the good fortunes of the film makers that chose to follow Mr. Weiner’s candidacy. This story wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling if a former Democratic Congressmen from NYC had succeeded in putting his past indiscretions behind him and getting elected Mayor. We all know that voters have short memories, and good candidates are hard to find. Instead, what makes this documentary interesting was the fact that Mr. Weiner could not get out of his own way. He lied to everyone including the voters, his staff and his family. In addition, there are some interesting and unexpected connections with this year’s presidential candidates, including the previously mentioned connections to Mrs. Clinton and few quotes from Mr. Trump that had me scratching my head. This documentary is obviously a must see for political junkies because it gives an inside look into a major political campaign, but audiences with less than a passing interest in politics will also find it interesting thanks to the human aspects of the story.