‘Weiner’ offers humor, insight

Shakespearean political downfall makes “Weiner” worth it.

In the world of politics, some names seem to precede themselves. Think of those graced with Kennedy or Roosevelt or Adams. With names like those, how could they be anything but powerful, long-term politicians? Unfortunately for him, it seems that former congressman Anthony Weiner’s name also preceded him, as cleverly shown by directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg.

“Weiner” follows the former congressman during his New York City mayoral run in 2013 and the second major scandal of the politician’s career in real time. Thanks to Kriegman’s previous experience as Weiner’s chief of staff, the audience is given almost complete access to every aspect of Weiner’s life, both public and private.

This access allows us watch this personable, fiery politician, who seems to genuinely care about the well-being of New York City and its vibrant citizens, quite literally self-destruct before our very eyes. Of course this is the second sexting scandal Weiner involved himself in, with the first forcing him to resign from Congress in 2011. While I can’t imagine many people sympathized with Weiner prior to seeing the film, it’s hard to not to don your rally cap alongside his campaign team despite the end we all knew was coming.

The film seeks to erase the caricature created by the debacles of Weiner’s private life by portraying a man with genuine concern for his constituents, a never fading ambition and an eventual “fuck the haters” attitude that carries him through each and every embarrassment. And while it is certainly hilarious, “Weiner” never feels cruel or overly harsh. It just accurately presents a series of truly ridiculous events.

Absolutely superb graphics fill in minute plot details and enhance the humor of everything with news clips and NY Post headlines galore. Also, a retrospective interview with Weiner bookends the film and also helps pace the 96 minutes nicely while his self-deprecating acceptance of his status as a “perpetual punchline” further humanizes the politician.

This sense of normalness shines in small moments with Weiner. He bangs his head on a desk when his campaign manager tells him it’s over. He takes the subway home from work. He gets excited when he feels like he took down a bully. As the second scandal breaks in the midst of his campaign, audiences get a peek into how politicians work to manipulate things in order to stay one step ahead of an oncoming storm.

The film also presents an insider view of how a true political power couple operates in their daily lives and on the campaign trail. Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides and possesses just as much political savvy as her husband. Abedin’s grace in handling the constant public fiasco of her husband is truly inspiring and probably warrants another film dedicated to her and only her.

An incredible storyline and carefully peppered humor make “Weiner” an absolute must-see to understand the post-Clinton/Lewinsky relationship between media, politics and scandal. It implores us to ask why we care so much about the personal lives of public figures and whether we should even care about such things when it’s their policies that affect us, not the strength of their marriages.

MOVE gives “Weiner” 4 out of 5 stars

Edited by Elana Williams | ewilliams@themaneater.com

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