In May of 2011 seven term Congressman Anthony Weiner sent a sexually explicit photo on Twitter to a woman he was following on the service. After dodging and denying, he finally admitted that he had sent the photo, and in mid-June 2011 he resigned from public office. This film should have documented his triumphant return to politics, but instead a completely different story was told.
On May 21, 2013, Anthony Weiner announced that he was running for mayor of New York. As someone who prided himself as being a crusader for the middle and lower classes, he wanted the public to give him a second chance to let him help them. Weiner invited the filmmakers to follow him on the campaign trail, obviously thinking that the film would end up being a document of his political comeback. Instead, the film becomes an examination of a political and personal disaster, when new sexually explicit photographs Weiner sent to a different woman come to light, only two months after he launched his mayoral campaign.
As the filmmakers are embedded within Weiner’s campaign when the second scandal breaks, the footage they are able to capture is quite astounding. They’re there to catch the reactions, the strategising, and media scrum. The most interesting thing about Weiner are the reactions of everyone around him (including the media), rather than Weiner himself. I don’t think it’s that he was on his guard with the filmmakers, it feels more like he just lacks a huge amount of self-awareness.
One way to watch this film is to just watch Weiner’s wife Huma (a prominent political campaign manager, currently working on the Clinton campaign) and how her demeanor and personality changes throughout. It’s quite painful to witness her have to keep it together, when every inch of her body language screams in despair. Not only are his indiscretions sexual in nature (although he never met the women in person), but they are being mocked and dissected on an international stage.
Weiner is also a fascinating examination of the current state of media and the cycle of outrage. Weiner’s politics (which seem rather genuine, making his actions more frustrating) are completely forgotten and the media are absolutely relentless in their desire to get answers about his indiscretions. While a man running for office being caught out lying is 100% news, there is delicious scandalousness to the whole affair that the media finds irresistible. A politician with his name being involved in two scandals of a sexual nature…the jokes really do write themselves. Weiner’s frustration at the media’s endless, repetitive questions is quite amusing to watch.
Near the end of the film one of the filmmakers asks Weiner, “Why did you let us film this?”, and in reply he shrugs. This response is typical of a man who just doesn’t seem to get, or even care about the consequences of his actions. He is so sure of himself and his politics that he believes he can bounce back from anything. Perhaps a full-time media manager would be advisable if he ever decided to run for office again. Oh, and maybe don’t send photos of your genitals to anyone – it really shouldn’t be so difficult not to do this.
By Sam McCosh
Director(s): Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg
Runtime: 96 minutes