With unrestricted access to Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral campaign, this film reveals the human story behind the scenes of a high-profile political scandal as it unfolds, and it offers an unfiltered look at how much today’s politics are driven by an appetite for spectacle.
“I might’ve successfully whistled past the graveyard,” says Anthony Weiner, seemingly drawing a line under the photo he accidentally tweeted of an underwear-clad penis bulge that resulted in him initially claiming he was hacked, and then apologising and, inevitably, resigning from congress.
At this point in the narrative of Weiner’s life, he is topping the polls as the next democratic mayoral candidate for New York and has pretty much survived the scandal. Now he’s shaking hands, kissing babies, “Viva!”-ing every national flag he comes across and leading Pride parades through the city (while Bill De Blasio – the *spoiler alert* eventual winner of the mayoral race conversely and comedically walks through empty streets with at a “Come meet Bill!” splinter parade). Weiner is back and he’s winning. But the whistling is about to stop and the graveyard is about to get very real for Weiner as Carlos Danger - his dating website alias – is about to make his long-awaited debut in the mayoral race.
Weiner is a riveting documentary with access to a fascinating politician at a turbulent time of his life. In 2013, as he seemed to be a genuine candidate for New York City mayor and two years after the Twitter incident, more explicit photos (this time unsheathed) made the rounds, the Carlos Danger alias emerged, ex-sexting partners got porn deals and the issue landed full circle again, becoming the main story on everything from Fox News to The Daily Show.
It says everything about Anthony Weiner that he would have allowed a documentary crew to film him knowing that it was likely, if not inevitable, that all of this would unfold at some point. On one occasion he even asks the filmmakers directly why he has let them into his life. And the crew are there – almost constantly – as a (sometimes talking) fly-on-the-wall in his car, at his family home and in one of the makeshift “Weiner for Mayor” offices across the city. And when they aren’t there – through being asked to leave a room or to stay out of the way – the drama is heightened even more.
The real focus of the documentary is Weiner’s wife (and close Hillary Clinton aide) Huma Adebin, what she is really feeling and why she chooses to stay with her husband. The long pauses as Weiner assesses the latest revelations and the facial expressions of Huma who chooses to stay with her husband despite living the nightmare over again is a context that the film captures to compelling effect.
Yes, this is an extended profile of Anthony Weiner, but this is also about relationships in crisis, a media-chosen narrative, a politician fighting for issues he believes in but frustrated by his own flaws and hoping that, one day, he’ll get past that graveyard and still be whistling. Riveting stuff and excellent filmmaking.