From the Archives: Weiner review

From the Archives: Weiner review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

“The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.” It’s this quote from famed professor, Marshall Macluhan that opens the near-perfect documentary, Weiner. And despite the ties between former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s name and his scandalous behavior, this is as close as the must-see film gets to picking at any, ahem, low-hanging fruit.

For those not in the know, Anthony Weiner burst onto the political scene as somewhat of a firebrand. His brash way of conducting himself coupled with his passion for the rights of the middle class painted him as a refreshing voice in the stuffy world of politics. Sure, he’s a bit of a loudmouth, but he’s a loudmouth for the people – the exact type of politician that can get the job done and make his constituents feel powerful in the process. His frequent congressional outbursts put him at the center of many a newscast, and his overall likability got him re-elected for seven terms. His wife, Huma Abedin, is an incredibly successful aide to Hilary Clinton, and when it was revealed that he and Jon Stewart were college pals, Weiner was all but a hero for politically-minded youths.

Then he tweeted a photo of his genital bulge to a female follower.



The scandal resulted in his resignation from Congress, and was a veritable playground for comedians everywhere. The fact that Weiner initially claimed to be a victim of hackers didn’t help.

Yet, Weiner was just too passionate to stay away from the public eye. He owned up to his transgression (I mean, as far as political scandals go, a gnarly tweet is pretty tame stuff), and decided to run for Mayor of New York City. This is where Weiner begins. The film, from directors Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kreigman was intended to chronicle the return of a disgraced politician, and at first, that’s exactly what happens. Weiner’s mayoral run begins as a smashing success, proving either that voters really care about the issues or they love a good comeback story. Even knowing what happens next, it’s tough not to get swept up in the energetic montage of Weiner’s return to good graces, which makes it equally tough to watch it all crumble.

Midway through his campaign, another scandal comes to light. Not only was he outed for sexting with women who weren’t his wife, but he was found out to have a sexy online profile under the name of Carlos Danger. Comedy doesn’t get much easier than this.

Where Weiner shines is in the unprecedented access to this meteoric rise and fall. The cameras, rarely intrusive, catch everything in its natural state, and Weiner, glutton for punishment (or pure egotist) that he is, never gives thought to shutting the project down. In fact, he’s quite literally the only talking head in the entire film. It’s hard to decide whether to respect his willingness to own his mistakes, or cringe at his complete lack of impulse control. As someone who doesn’t follow politics – and therefore has little knowledge of Weiner’s policies – I couldn’t figure out whether I love or hate the guy. Weeks later, I still don’t. It’s incredible.

So rare do our documentaries give such an honest and thorough portrait of their subject, and to see something like Weiner, where the film maintains our attention without dipping into sensationalism, is downright unheard of. These filmmakers know what they’re doing, but damn are they lucky to have found the perfect subject at the perfect time. It’s been years since I’ve seen a documentary with such little artifice. So much is said about the state of politics, media, celebrity, family, and ego, and all without any editorial spin.

Yes, it’s grueling to watch the strain that this film takes on poor Hume Abedin, but it’s also incredible to watch her carry herself with such class and dignity. Yes, it’s upsetting to see how easily our government can become an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but it’s also essential.

And the fact that a man named Weiner got in so much trouble using his weiner … well that’s just hilarious.

Weiner opens in Philly theaters today.

Official site.

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