Review: ‘Weiner’ Timely Political Documentary Captivates, Entertains
Back in 2011, Anthony Weiner was the subject of serious ridicule after he tweeted a sexually graphic photo that was meant not to be shared online. This incident caught the political world, American society, and late night comedy by storm. After a few years of laying low and some self-reflection, Anthony Weiner wanted political (and probably personal) redemption by rebooting himself to New Yorkers by running for mayor. His 2013 mayoral campaign is a train-wreck of epic proportions caught on film in the sleeper doc hit “Weiner” which is expanding across the country this month.
The Sundance film festival award winning “Weiner” captures the behind-the-scenes operations of the campaign as well as the turmoil of his 2013 mayoral run with rare and riveting access. I admit that when I read the underwhelming doc line-up at this year’s Sundance, I had little interest in watching a non-fiction account about Anthony Weiner and I love politics. After winning festival awards, critical acclaim, and indie audiences, my interest significantly grew. I enjoy the unexpected especially from a documentary and “Weiner” didn’t disappoint is showcasing retail politics, a sensational media, and an intriguing figure.
“Weiner” is a must see movie going event for political junkies and documentary fans. Filmmakers Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman received unfiltered access to Anthony Weiner’s campaign. The directorial style takes a very fly on the wall approach to a majority of the running time but also includes some face-to-face camera interviews.
The second half of the documentary goes into a different direction due to the circumstances of Weiner’s campaigns. During these turbulent and unpredictable moments, Steinberg and Kriegman take command of the documentary never shying away from intimate moments nor losing focus of the subject matter in an awkward spot. “Weiner” sends viewers on a tailspin especially during the zippy second half when things become out of control. The documentary shows archival footage and media outtakes to the reaction of his latest sex scandal. Politically focused docs have a high bar to achieve after “Weiner.” The niche genre has a benchmark for comparison.
What was riveting about “Weiner” was watching everything unfold and deteriorate from his campaign. Even though this is pre-Trump, it foreshadows a bombastic character overwhelmed and indulging in a reactionary, 24 hour news cycles. The optimism of his campaign and the candidate is cheery and blatantly narcissistic only to be ruined by a new sex scandal. The relationship with his wife, Huma Abedin, who is a close advisor to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, was gripping. If anything, I wanted to watch more moments with Huma. I found her, as well as her tough situation, just as fascinating and alluring as the documentary “Weiner” was itself.
“Weiner” is a documentary I couldn’t take my eyes off of during the entire running time. Near flawless with cringe-worthy moments, I became so fascinated with this account that I had to watch a few scenes twice. The chaotic and humorous moment of Anthony Weiner bolting into a McDonald’s to avoid a confrontation with his media savvy mistress defines the absurdity of modern politics. It is one of the most memorable scenes I have seen in any 2016 movie (narrative or documentary).
Barring any objection from the committee who shortlists Oscar eligible docs (because they have a tendency to ignore terrific and successful docs every year), I full expect “Weiner” to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature early next year. It is surely one of the best documentaries of this year and will be remembered years to come.
“Weiner” is playing in limited theaters and available on VOD. It will air on Showtime this autumn.
- Documentary Score
With an unobtrusive eye, Weiner captures the zaniness of retail campaigning, a sensational media, and a narcissistic figure providing a crisp snapshot of early 21st century politics
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